Dementia Adventure Help Abbeyfield to Have a ‘Breath of Fresh Air’


Dementia Adventure (DA) have been working with the Abbeyfield Society, enabling them to create Abbeyfield’s award-winning ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ programme. The successful partnership between Abbeyfield and DA looks set to continue for some time to come, enabling people living with dementia to connect to the outdoors for their well-being.

Who Are Abbeyfield?

In 2016 DA embarked on a long-term partnership with the Abbeyfield Society, after being approached by their Head of Dementia Innovation – April Dobson, to explore how they could be more innovative in their work with people living with dementia. Abbeyfield is an organisation that offers care and support to older people. Its patron is HRH Prince of Wales. The organisation was founded over 60 years ago with the aim of alleviating loneliness in older people and improving their quality of life. That ethos continues today with over 8000 older people enjoying supported, family-like houses and specialist care homes across the UK and beyond.

Pilot Scheme

After speaking with April, DA initially worked with Abbeyfield on a pilot scheme in one of their homes in Epping to enable the residents to get outside to connect to nature and themselves. Abbeyfield recognised that it is a natural inclination to want to protect people from harm but this could lead to a culture that is risk adverse, to the detriment of the well-being of others. DA delivered a tailored, ‘Risky Business’ training programme to the Abbeyfield staff and volunteers. This aim was to enable them to help residents with dementia to explore and enjoy the outdoors. The purpose of the training was to create a more balanced approach, at Abbeyfield, to risk benefit assessments, planning outside activities and addressing the potential barriers to connecting with nature. The training was also aimed at benefitting carers, staff members and volunteers who will similarly have an improved sense of well-being after being outside or connecting to nature. As part of the initial pilot of the programme, DA also facilitated a ‘Family Carers Seminar’ to bring understanding of the programme to family members. This initial pilot was a phenomenal success, Abbeyfield’s evaluation, after the pilot, showed:

  • Residents who felt moderately lonely went from 77% to 11%
  • Increasing the amount of time residents had outside decreased falls by 10%
  • Residents getting seven hours sleep a night or more increased from 55% to 88%
  • Residents who rated their appetite as ‘good’ rose from 66% to 100%
  • 33% of residents of residents who said their mood was good before the programme rose to 66% after.


‘Breath of Fresh Air’ Project

As a result of the successful pilot, Abbeyfield went on to develop their award-winning ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ programme, where numbers of ‘ambassadors’ from other Abbeyfield homes around the UK were trained, so that they could take what they had learnt to train their own teams. The project has been very effective, and there now being 70 ‘Breath of Fresh Air Ambassadors’ across 17 homes around the UK facilitating this programme and enabling people living with dementia to connect to the outdoors, for their well-being.

As a result of this work the homes have adopted all kinds of new ideas, such as weekly garden walks, or regular time sitting outside. Some are offering exercise classes and another built raised beds in their garden so the residents can plant and garden as they please. There are an increasing number of highly positive case studies and testimonies of the impact the partnership between DA and Abbeyfield, where we can see the direct benefit of the work on the lives of people living with dementia.

Moving Forward

DA are excited about continuing their partnership with the Abbeyfield Society. They are currently developing a social licence project with Abbeyfield to collectively increase the work they are doing.

Neil Mapes (CEO of Dementia Adventure) says:

"I am really pleased to have such a strong partnership in place with the Abbeyfield Society, they are changing lives for people with dementia in their care. It has been impressive to see how they have run and developed successful outdoor activities from our initial challenge and inspiration and am really glad that their positive work has rightly been recognised with prestigious awards last year."

April Dobson (Head of Dementia Innovation for Abbeyfield) says:

“Working with DA helped us all, staff, residents and families alike, to think a bit differently about how we can use our outside space in a way that enhances the lives of everyone.  It gave us all the confidence we needed to put our ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ programme together which has become a key part of Abbeyfield’s dementia strategy.  We really enjoy working with DA and value greatly their support and expertise.  We look forward to expanding our programme even further with them!”

If you would like to know more about our training and consultancy work, please visit our website, or contact Simon Thorp at or call 01245 237548.

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