Many of us like nothing better than pottering about in the garden and now experts claim that growing flowers and vegetables really can improve quality of life and help us to live longer. Research being carried out suggests that doctors may even eventually prescribe gardening for patients to help with fitness and wellbeing.
Thrive (formerly known as the Society for Horticultural Therapy) currently supports 60,000 people with projects in hospitals, residential care schemes, schools, prisons and allotments, helping elderly, disabled and injured people to gain enjoyment from gardening. The group offer practical advice on how to adapt gardens and tools where necessary to enable everyone to become involved.
Hints and Tips for Garden Success
Older people who have a dementia can benefit greatly if given the opportunity to engage with the outdoors, and particularly in a garden setting. However, some adaptations may be necessary to comply with safety in mind.
- Ensure boundaries such as fences and hedging are secure. Climbing plants and tall shrubs and trees can disguise a high wall to look more appealing. Gates can be hidden behind trellis or tall plants in pots if necessary.
- Create a sheltered area to protect from the elements, a canopy or a few large parasols will encourage people to use the garden more often. Add some scented potted plants to make the area attractive.
- Include a patio area with comfortable, sturdy seating, some grouped to encourage people to sit together, but also some single chairs for those who wish to enjoy the garden privately.
- Paths and patios need to be made from non-slip and non-reflective materials-rubber is ideal. Paving slabs need to level and butted against each other to stop trips or catching against gaps.
- Make sure the garden is easily accessible. Use large, bold signs that include a simple picture as well as words. In fine weather, keep doors open and add handrails to assist walking. Gently sloping ramps will also encourage people of all abilities can come and go safely. These adaptations allow people to use the garden on their own
- Wheelchair users will benefit greatly with having a small raised edge along the path to prevent the chair from veering off the track.
- Try to avoid dark shadows on the ground; people with a dementia can easily confuse these with holes they may fall into. Use brightly coloured plants instead of dark, dense-leaved shrubs and trees. Silver Birch trees are ideal.
- Plant things with a sensory appeal such as: Lavender, Chocolate Cosmos, Mock Orange and Sweet Peas for scent. For touch: Lambs Ears, Grasses, Houseleek and Bamboo. Grasses and Bamboos are also great for sound – maybe hang some tinkling chimes. Ensure there are plenty of brightly coloured large flowers such as Sunflowers, Marigolds and Lupins for people who have a sight impairment. Hollyhock spires will add interest and height.
Get Growing With Our Seed Kits
Once achieved, the garden will be a place that older people look forward to spending time in, to relax and provide opportunities for conversation and reminiscence. Why not set up a potting bench to encourage people to plant up their own seeds and cuttings, or to maybe do some flower arranging. Our Marigold or Sunflower Plant Craft Kits are ideal for this as everything you need is included. Order yours from our website today and bring some sunshine into someone’s life!