Uniting Art, Design, and Care in Dementia-Inclusive Gardens

Apex Harmony Lodge (AHL), a first purpose-built dementia nursing home dedicated to providing quality care for persons living with dementia (PLWD) collaborated with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), School of Health and Social Sciences (SHSS) and School of Design and Media (SDM) in improving their garden and creating an environment that would bring purposeful experiences to the residents.

Published on 30 Apr 2024


Drawing upon on their extensive expertise and experience, the School of Health and Social Sciences shared valuable insights on managing the well-being of PLWDs.  However, designing an effective therapeutic garden required an interdisciplinary approach.


Recognising this, SHSS approached SDM and together, they embarked on a meaningful and creative journey to propose a garden design that would be visually captivating and therapeutically beneficial for PLWDs.


SDM incorporated SHSS' recommendations on the therapeutic elements of nature, sensory stimulation, and ease of navigation. With careful consideration of the unique needs of PLWDs, the team ensured that the proposed design would reflect and create a safe and welcoming space for exploration and engagement. The guidance and recommendation came from "Elderly- and Dementia-Inclusive Environment", authored by Dr Wan-Koo May Yeok, our Deputy Director from SHSS who specialises in the field of dementia care.  


With the garden being a focal point of daily activities at the lodge, Apex Harmony Lodge (AHL) then collaborated with various partners to progressively transform it.  Gaining inspiration from NYP’s recommendations, AHL has incorporated the carefully selected sensory elements such as colour contrasting the finger maze and benches for visual attention, as well as the addition of way finding signages in contrasting colours to aid navigation. 



Finger Maze allows easier mapping of geographical locations through tracing, and colour-contrasting way findings and imitation animals help with easier identifications.

AHL has also enhanced some of the existing garden features such as the placement of imitation animals to promote a more therapeutic atmosphere and foster active communication among the residents and with their loved ones.

Colour-contrasting benches at the garden in Apex Harmony Lodge

More than 100 of AHL's residents benefitted from the garden's transformation. Moreover, the exposure generated by the project contributed to making the staff and students of NYP more future-ready in designing elderly- and dementia-inclusive environment which is vital to the nation’s synergistic efforts in enhancing community care.


Ms. Kok Kah Wei, Deputy CEO of Apex Harmony Lodge shared, "We appreciate the efforts by Dr. Koo. In addition to giving us ideas, she also mobilised NYP students to help add colour to the finger maze and prepare way-finding signages in contrasting colours. These have certainly contributed to the vibrancy of the garden."


Inspired by the success of the project, St John Singapore also collaborated with SHSS and SDM to design an elderly- and dementia-inclusive therapeutic garden and dementia day care centre for their clients and caregivers. The ripple effect of the collaboration between SHSS and SDM has extended beyond the walls of Apex Harmony Lodge, positively impacting the lives of many more PLWDs.


The combined efforts generated by NYP360 have made a difference in the lives of PLWDs. The collaboration served as a shining example of the significant impact of interdisciplinary collaboration and how the fusion of relevant knowledge and skills can better shape the path towards a more compassionate and inclusive society.