The Power of Traditional Design Techniques: The Effects of Viewing a Japanese Garden on Individuals With Cognitive Impairment

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Abstract

Purpose:

This study is to examine how viewing a Japanese garden affects Japanese patients with dementia.

Background:

In a previous study, authors explored the effect on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease of viewing an indoor Japanese garden at a nursing home in the United States and reported that viewing the garden significantly reduced the heart rate, evoked short-term and long-term memories, and improved behavioral symptoms. However, it was unclear whether these effects were caused by the design of Japanese garden or unfamiliarity of the design to Caucasians.

Methods:

We constructed a Japanese garden on the rooftop of a hospital in Japan and assessed with a total of 25 subjects on the following categories: (1) eye movement, (2) heart rate, and (3) behavior under four different conditions: (a) open view of the site before construction of the Japanese garden (the control space), (b) open view of the Japanese garden, (c) view of the Japanese garden through closed door, and (d) view of Japanese garden through closed door with the chrysanthemum scent.

Findings/Results:

Viewers’ eyes scanned larger area while viewing the Japanese garden, and viewing the Japanese garden significantly reduced heart rate and improved behavioral symptoms than the control space. We also found that the effect of viewing the same Japanese garden differed across three conditions: the view through an open door, a closed door, and a closed door with added scent.

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