Eight days out in Devon for people living with dementia

With its beautiful countryside, coastlines and rich heritage, Devon offers a variety of days out for people living with dementia and their carers. From scenic countryside walks to engaging cultural experiences, here are some of the best dementia-friendly days out in Devon.

1. Seaside Strolls at Sidmouth and Exmouth

A sure fire-way to fire up all the senses is with sand, sea and fresh air. Both Exmouth and Sidmouth boast stunning views of the Jurassic Coast and there’s plenty of room along the esplanades for a seafront stroll.

For the more adventurous day trippers, Exmouth Beach Wheelchairs has a variety of beach and sea going wheelchairs, so you feel the sea on your toes. Devon care homeowners Southern Healthcare take their residents – many of whom are living with dementia – on day trips to the beach, on sponsored walks, to the pub, to Bingo nights, and to the watch motocross racing trackside.

These day trips are more than activities for dementia patients, they provide a sense of normalcy, give the residents some agency and add immeasurably to their quality of life. One memorable trip to Exmouth beach was with resident Edward Perryman, who has lived at The Old Rectory since 2022 and, last summer, went on his first trip outside in ten years.

2. Tranquil Gardens at RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington

Escape into the serene beauty of RHS Garden Rosemoor, where meticulously landscaped gardens provide a peaceful environment for visitors. The scent of flowers, the sound of birdsong, and the beauty of the surroundings offer sensory activities for dementia patients. And wheelchair-accessible paths ensure everyone can explore the gardens together.

3. Nostalgia at Bygones, Torquay

At The Seaton care home, popular activities for dementia residents often include memory boxes from different decades, specially collated to prompt conversation for people living with dementia. Care home manager, Emma Seal explains: “It’s a way of engaging with our residents and encouraging them to talk about their memories. It often leads to residents recalling events from their lives which they may not have spoken about before. Our residents living with dementia can struggle with recollection. The memory box is an opportunity for them to stimulate memory and reconnect with their past.”

For the more mobile residents there is an option to make taking a walk down memory lane a more immersive experience and step back in time at Bygones in Torquay, where a recreated Victorian street awaits. From vintage shops to a replica steam train, the exhibits evoke memories of days gone by. The immersive experience is perfect for reminiscing and enjoying a sense of nostalgia.

4. Wildlife Discovery at Paignton Zoo

Llamas, ponies, and birds of prey aren’t an unusual sight at The Old Rectory care home in Exeter, which regularly provides sensory activities for dementia patients living at their care homes; but if you’re looking for an opportunity to observe a wide variety of animals from around the world, then Paignton Zoo is a great day out. The zoo’s accessible pathways and tranquil surroundings (in term time) make it an enjoyable outing for individuals living with dementia. From playful primates to majestic big cats, there’s something for everyone to marvel at.

5. Cultural Exploration at Exeter Cathedral

Explore the grandeur of Exeter Cathedral, a magnificent example of medieval architecture. Learn about the history of the Cathedral through a guided tour or spend some time reflecting in one of the quiet spaces. The stunning stained-glass windows and intricate stone carvings are sure to captivate visitors of all ages. There is an array of cafes around Cathedral Green, so you can sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake after your visit. The Cathedral also hosts regular exhibitions, so check what’s going on before you visit.

6. Forget-me-not Café, Sefton Hall, Dawlish

Set in the beautiful grounds of Sefton Hall care home, the Forget-me-not Café is open to the public on Thursday mornings between 10-11.30am and visitors can enjoy the refreshments and cakes baked and served by Sefton’s team of activity coordinators, with donations to Sefton Hall’s designated charity.

Care home manager Gabriela Ogreanu says the café is a great way to connect residents with the community, and also give people a better insight into care home life. Staff are always present at the café and there is CCTV to enhance security.

7. Budding Friends Group, Exeter

A social gardening and art therapy group, Budding Friends offers support and companionship for people living with dementia and their carers. Run by Age UK Exeter, the group spends a lot of time tending to their allotment or taking part in art activities. They also organise trips to local attractions or pubs and restaurants.

8. RAMM Museum’s Dementia Friendly Programme, Exeter

RAMM’s Living Each Season programme offers a combination of object-handling sessions, creative activities and gallery tours inspired by groundbreaking methodology from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.

The sessions use objects from the RAMM’s collections – a Victorian legacy of stuffed animals and pickled sea creatures, fine art and costume, local archaeology and international ethnography – to spark conversations and reflections themed around the seasons.

Whilst activities for dementia residents are fulfilling, day trips can be challenging for people living with dementia because of their orientation difficulties, the risk of overstimulation, physical limitations, communication barriers, and changes in routine. To mitigate these challenges, caregivers should plan carefully, choose appropriate destinations and activities, ensure familiarity, provide constant supervision, maintain a calm environment, and prioritise the comfort and safety of the person living with dementia.