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Gardening provides much-needed therapy for seniors

Breaking green beans is something familiar for Doris Stout who has always enjoyed vegetable gardening.
Photo by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Gardening is one of the healthiest and best activities for people of any age, including seniors and seniors living in nursing homes, the benefits of garden-related activities are abounding.
It is for this reason, Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation Center of Mountain City, planted a vegetable garden this year involving residents and staff members in gardening activities,
raising physical activity levels and providing opportunities for meaningful interaction.
“Gardening and garden-related activities can be a fun way of getting nursing home residents more physically active and engaged,” said Lisa Stout, Quality of Life Director at Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation Center. “Gardening can also be a way of getting all members of the nursing home community involved in a common project.”
For those whose health will not allow the actual tending of the garden, plenty of other garden-related activities are necessary and can be beneficial like breaking beans. “In this area especially, we have a lot of former farmers or people who spent most of their lives outside,” said Mary Robinson, who met with Mike Penley, Maintenance Director and Mike Brooks, together they were able to get the ground ready for planting. Stout and Robinson assist the residents with the project. “Being inside all of the time is really tough for them,” said Robinson, “so this program provides an activity that they can relate to, that they enjoy.”
One gentleman who isn’t physically able to work in the garden keeps a close eye on it. “He’s always telling Mary if a groundhog has been visiting the vegetables,” said Stout.
The garden has made all the difference in the world to patients like Madge Taylor. While physically unable to help in the garden, Taylor certainly enjoys stringing and breaking green beans. The vegetables, including squash, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, beans, corn, and beets, are continuing to grow and residents have already enjoyed some. “We’ve had fried squash this week,” said Stout, who expects to have a hefty harvest of beans in the next few weeks. They also planted pumpkins for the fall.
“The residents don’t stop living just because they come to a nursing home,” said Stout. “We want them to continue to live and continue to make memories.”
In addition to being therapeutic, this special vegetable garden has the ability to stimulate all five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. For an older
adult who feels as though they’ve lost their purpose, gardening delivers a sense of meaning and accomplishment.
“It gives them a piece of home and familiarity,” said Robinson. “It makes them proud to see that something they created is being used.”
Numerous studies suggest the benefits of horticultural therapy and garden settings in reduction of pain, improvement in attention, and lessening of stress.
Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation’s parent company Signature HealthCARE, headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is a family-based healthcare company that offers
integrated services in 10 states.