Palmerston Residential Care Home in East Belfast has officially opened its “Magical Memory Garden” to support those living with dementia.

The garden, which features a number of reminiscence areas, is the first garden of its kind ever created in Northern Ireland and has been funded by The Alpha Programme, Groundwork NI, Belfast City Council and Belfast City Airport.

Palmerston residents and visitors to the garden can take a magical trip down memory lane. An on-site caravan can be used to recall family “days out” or holidays, while car enthusiasts may prefer to spend time in the car port, which offers the opportunity for “tinkering”, polishing and cleaning the car. The space can also be used for simply sitting in the car and listening to the radio – an experience everyone can relate to.

There is also a large garden shed, which is home to the ‘Men in Sheds’ project, and a dedicated pet’s corner with rabbits and chickens that provides the opportunity to care for animals. Finally, if quiet escape is the preference the Secret Garden provides a serene, secluded space for reflection.

Mrs Geraldine Gilpin, Chief Executive of Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association, which owns and manages Palmerston Care Home, explained why the Magical Memory Garden is so important: “We were keen to create a magical space for residents, their families and friends, and one which can also be used by people in the community with dementia and their carers. For people living with dementia it is important to stimulate different senses. They may forget where they are living in time and place, but they can recognise and experience aspects of a garden – the open sky, sounds of the outside environment, and trees blowing in the wind. This is a freedom we can all connect with.”

Mrs Gilpin continued: “The Magical Memory Garden’s pathways and areas flow from one to another with no dead ends which would be a barrier for someone with dementia. It is important to recognise that Palmerston is about creating different environments for different people. Everybody is an individual and everybody’s dementia is different. Each of our residents is at a different stage of dementia and needs a different stage of care and assistance. It is important to have a range of activities and solutions for these various stages, so we have a caravan to remember “days out”, a car for the men to polish and sit in, areas for growing vegetables, a farmyard area, and quiet spaces.”

Television presenter Sarah Travers, an ambassador for The Alzheimer’s Society, will host the launch event. The popular broadcaster lost her father, Ian Travers, to an aggressive form of dementia in 2013 when he was aged just 67. Reinforcing the value of such an outdoor space Ms Travers commented:

“Research conducted by The Alzheimer’s Society in 2013 showed that only 35% of people living with dementia get outside every week. We all benefit, both psychologically and physically, from having access to an enjoyable outdoor open space and studies show that for people with dementia this can be particularly important.

“The Magical Memory Garden will not only help to rekindle old memories but will also create new emotional memories. It will provide meaningful experiences and purpose for residents and visitors, as well as helping to sustain relationships and enhance the quality of life for residents, staff and families.”

Niamh-Anne McNally from the Alpha Programme said; “The Alpha Programme is now in its tenth year and we have invested over £4.5 million in a range of projects that are designed to enhance the environment and support local community regeneration initiatives. The Magical Memory garden is a brilliant example showcasing how this funding nurtures a project to completion and transforms it into something that will play an important role for the local community.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister said: “The number of people on the dementia register in Northern Ireland has risen from 9,550 to 13,617 in the last 10 years and as a local authority, we are constantly looking at the evolving needs of our community and working in partnership with others to address these.

“Palmerston’s Magical Memory Garden is a great example of how a partnership approach can deliver for citizens and their changing needs. Council part-funded this wonderful project through its Local Investment Fund, and I’m delighted that it will be enjoyed by the residents and will be a place where they can relax and reminisce.”

Michelle Hatfield, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Human Resources, George Best Belfast City Airport, added:

“Belfast City Airport is delighted to be able to support the Magical Memory Garden at Palmerston Residential Dementia Care Home. Through our Community Fund, we endeavour to support local community groups, schools and charities. Supporting the local community is a key objective of the airport, as is promoting positive environmental initiatives. This garden is a wonderful space for the residents of Palmerston, and the wider community and is a fantastic example of a variety of businesses working together to positively impact the community.”

Palmerston Residential Dementia Care Home was built in 2009 to provide care for 39 residents.  Situated in East Belfast, the home is run by Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association, a not-for-profit organisation.

For further information log onto or contact Abbeyfield & Wesley Society on 028 93363558.