Say yes to gardening in residential care. It’s so important to have garden programs in long-term care. It gets residents outside for fresh air and a bit of exercise, lets them enjoy the wonders of nature and may have them reminiscing about their own gardens. This month I will be starting a program working with seniors with different levels of ability. Some may have dementia or have some kind of physical limitations due to stroke or brain injury. Some will be fine and have good motor skills.
The gardens are already built as raised beds where I plan to start the new program. All the raised beds are wheelchair accessible and allow residents to touch the plants. I think after we create an edible garden, we could move onto tactile plants such as lavender, rosemary, thyme and mint. Making mint tea from our own plants may be the perfect way to end a garden session. Garden sessions will be short to accommodate the short attention spans so we will try for 30 minute sessions at first.
Our first garden class will be planting seeds and let them winter sow over the next few months. We will check on them each week for signs of growth. It’s an easy hands on project using soil and seeds.Today I found some seeds that will work for our first project. Because I am working with people who may have limited mobility I have chosen seeds that are large and easy to handle. I will focus on plants they can grow easily that we can use for a future class.
I also chose seeds from plants that are edible. It would be horrible if someone ate a leaf or flower from a toxic plant. It’s important to plant edible plants as many of the residents at a care home may think they can eat any flowers that are grown. It’s the same thing you would do with a young child who can’t understand the garden plants due to their age.
The idea is to partner two residents together, perhaps one that is more able with someone who may need help. We will plant the seeds together and help each other as we go along.
The plan is to grow marigolds, nasturtiums and peas to get started. The residents in this care home have a large garden where seedlings can be planted outside. I think we will start by establishing an area as an edible garden. It could be filled with not only flowers but peas, tomatoes and fruit and other vegetables.
There will also be a herb garden so we can go outside and touch the herbs and discuss them. What does it smell like? Does it remind them of something? Perhaps we can brew some tea from plants that they grow. People often ask me if I am a horticultural therapist but I am not. I have learned the value of teaching and living in the moment. That’s what’s important. Gardening allows you to forget the pain and stresses of everyday life.