Fragrance and Dementia
Innovative fragrance therapy is increasingly being used to enrich the lives of those
suffering from dementia by supporting engagement, alertness and appetite stimulation.
Kate Williams, Seven Scent
Dementia is a major health and social care issue. About 5. 4 million Americans are currentlyliving with Alzheimer’sdisease, the
most common form of dementia, while in the United
Kingdom 1 million people are expected to be living
with dementia by 2021.1, 2 In global terms, the cost of
dementia is estimated at $604 billion. 3
Caused by damage to brain cells, dementia encompasses a wide range of symptoms such as loss of
memory, mood changes, and problems with communication and reasoning. Confusion is also very common
with individuals finding it difficult to engage and interact. This inability to place people, places or time is a
major challenge for caregivers—and one where fragrance may have a key role to play.
Williams working in the lab developing scents for the Ode project.
Fragrance and Memory
A growing body of scientific research supports the use of fragrance to help memory recall; it is also acknowledged as a strong
trigger for emotions and reactions. 4, 5 Given this evidence—and
despite the fact that declining sense of smell is often used as a
diagnostic for dementia—recent involvement in two study projects enabled researchers to explore whether carefully controlled
use of fragrance could be of benefit to this vulnerable audience.
A growing body of scientific research supports
the use of fragrance to help memory recall;
it is also acknowledged as a strong trigger for
emotions and reactions.
Pendine Park Care Home is a purpose-built residential home
in the United Kingdom offering specialist care to those suffering from dementia and recognized as a center of excellence.
An established partnership with the Hallé Orchestra meant
residents already enjoyed regular music sessions as part of the
arts-based therapy program. Seven Scent was invited to create
specific fragrances around a chosen theme in order to find out:
reaction among residents.
based at Pendine Park chose “holidays” as the main topic and
requested familiar fragrances and music that worked together
themes were chosen and associated fragrances developed:
•;Seaside pier: Fragrances included the sweet aroma of cotton
candy and toffee apple, as well as a contrasting salt, sand and
seaweed-filled smell of the beach.
•;English garden: Evoked by lavender and freshly cut grass.
•;Spanish fiesta: Created through the refreshing, sweet smell
Thirty residents aged 60 to 90 took part in the sessions and were
divided into three mixed groups of 10. The artist-in-residence
Key to the success of the aromas was the need to make
each one obvious, to over-exaggerate certain notes so that it
almost became a caricature of itself in order to help residents
process the information and make the link. The aim was to
help stimulate the brain and encourage engagement with the
topic. Equally important was the need for a high concentra-
tion to overcome a potential decline in the sense of smell. By
creating each fragrance as a spray for a blotter, participants
were able to choose to hold the blotter and control their level