Residents in our Smith Care Center now have a new activity to enjoy, thanks to the Plymouth Harbor Foundation. On July 10, an Eldergrow therapeutic sensory garden was installed in the SCC Living Room, bringing nature inside for our residents to enjoy year-round.
Eldergrow gardens are raised, mobile soil beds equipped with an indoor lighting system that allows plants to flourish inside year-round. The gardens are sustainably sourced, eco-friendly and energy efficient, and are accessible for both seated and standing gardeners. These therapeutic sensory gardens and the accompanying programming provide residents with a meaningful way to connect with nature that engages all the senses. “We try to make sure there are things to touch and feel, things to smell, and magical colors,” said Katherine, the Eldergrow Educator who came on site to perform the installation.
The installation began with Katherine bringing around a lavender plant, encouraging residents to touch and smell it. She did the same with a rosemary plant, and then with a “pink polka dot plant.” After introducing the plants, each resident was invited to choose one to call their own and place it in the soil, creating together a community garden full of diverse flora.
Now that the garden is up and running, residents will share daily tasks to keep the garden healthy, such as watering and pruning plants and tilling the soil. Every two weeks, Katherine will visit our residents to teach them about garden maintenance and host activities centered around the plants they are growing, usually using them to create crafts or even to cook! These classes allow the garden to further enrich the lives of residents by providing them with structured ways to use their motor, cognitive, and social skills. The activities help residents to engage with their community and their environment in meaningful ways.
Eldergrow is based on the concept of therapeutic horticulture and the healing powers of nature. Gardening has the power to change lives, with evidence showing it can improve motor skills, elevate mood, reduce agitation, and act as an antidepressant, among other things.
Leanne Beach, SCC Director of Activities, first learned of the program through a monthly Activity Director meeting and was immediately intrigued. “Several of our residents in the Smith Care Center are unable to get outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and see the flowers like they used to, and this seemed like a wonderful opportunity for them,” Leanne said.
The idea for Eldergrow gardens stemmed from this same problem. Eldergrow’s founder, Orla Concannon, came up with the idea for an indoor garden when her grandmother moved into a nursing home and no longer had
access to the gardens she loved to work in. While earning her Healthcare Executive MBA at Seattle University, Orla created Eldergrow in honor of her grandmother to bring the therapeutic benefits of gardening and nature to senior communities. After graduating in 2015, she successfully completed the University of Washington’s Jones and Foster Accelerator Program for Innovative Start-Ups and was awarded seed money for Eldergrow.
Now, there are 100 Eldergrow gardens across the nation, and ours is the third in Florida. “I am so happy and grateful that the “Eldergrow Program” has been welcomed to Plymouth Harbor,” Leanne said. “The support and enthusiasm was truly felt by our residents.”