Horticultural therapy for the elderly
Horticultural therapy as a trend is rising, not only amongst the elderly, but across the nation, as mental health stigmas are reduced. In this context however, we will be looking at what this type of therapy is and how it can be beneficial for those looking to get a bit greener with their fingers.
What is it?
Plant therapy or horticultural therapy involves the use of nature, and gardening as an activity, to evoke feelings of serenity and calmness. In a setting with older people, this can be an excellent way to reflect, but also to rediscover days gone by where gardening would have previously been a key hobby. Whilst you can get those who work full time as plant therapists to come to your care home, there are also simple additions you can make to encourage similar feelings in your patients.
Whilst, plants and gardening are renowned for their positive wellbeing effects, it’s also important to focus on the season at hand. For example, if it’s autumn, projects involving autumnal leaves, or plants that bloom in this season, like the Crocus, can be a good way to focus on time as a concept, which often helps with dementia patients. The power of reminiscing about seasons gone by should not be ignored and can be a good way for people to interact whilst focusing on this one temporal topic.
Practically, there needs to be consideration given to the type of products you can use, but also the health and safety of any activity. For example, utilising arthritis-friendly garden tools, or raised planters can allow those with movement difficulties the option to join in. Ensure the plants being used in any therapy sessions are safe, for this reason, those with thorns or nettles are best avoided.
Organisation is key
As some of those involving themselves in horticultural therapy may have trouble relating to their memory, simple things can make gardening much easier. Use old plant pots and a marker pen to put into the flower beds to indicate what exactly is growing beneath the soil. This can be a huge help when keeping track of plants and flowers, especially if gardeners may have forgotten where exactly certain things were planted and when. It’s simple, it makes use of old plant pots and it’s one of the most useful things for gardeners (of any age!)
Ensure it is on view
The rehabilitative and wellbeing effects of gardens and plants come from being able to see them. By this we mean, ensure there is ample opportunity to view the greenery as it grows. There could be a particular viewing spot for those who may not be able to get involved, which is why planters at different heights is crucial to provide a varied viewing experience. If the garden is out of view from many people, it’s full potential is being wasted and it’s affects not fairly dispersed across the populace of the home.
However far you want to take horticultural therapy, it can be a powerful tool in allowing older people to destress and unwind, whilst also providing something to focus their efforts on.
Andy Baxter, MD at outdoor furniture and gardening supplies store, Internet Gardener