Japanese gardens inside nursing homes could benefit late-stage Alzheimer's residents, researchers find

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Individuals with advanced dementia had better behavior after viewing a Japanese garden in a nursing home, researchers find.

Seiko Goto, MA, Ph.D, and fellow researchers from Rutgers University conducted the study to compare responses to two sensory environments in a nursing home: a multisensory Snoezelen room and a temporary Japanese garden.

The researchers measured residents' stress levels according to behavior and heart-rate changes while viewing a sensory environment for 15 minutes twice a week. Participants who viewed the garden had more positive behavioral changes while those who viewed the Snoezelen room showed more negative results. Pulse rates were significantly lower in the Japanese garden than in residential rooms, but there was little to no change between being in the residential room and the Snoezelen room.  

Residents also started showing negative behavior when the Japanese garden room was changed to include plants and furniture installed with no design.

Results from a previous study conducted by Goto and a different research team from Rutgers University supported these findings. Of the three landscaped places — an herb garden, a simple landscape with a single tree and a Japanese garden — structured gardens evoked greater responses in measurements of heart rate, sympathetic functions and mood.

Findings from the most recent study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease on July 2.

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