An intergenerational program that involves growing fruit and vegetables is helping residents feel valued and improve their social connections, a residential manager tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
The initiative of Queensland aged care provider Carinity aims to help residents at its Karinya Place facility build relationships with students at the nearby Laidley State High School through gardening.
Students visit residents once a fortnight to tend six accessible garden beds growing fruit and vegetables, such as strawberries, bok choy, silverbeet, chillies, tomatoes, carrots and corn, for local charities.
Carinity Karinya Place residential manager Tuttu Mathew said residents have embranced the program since it launched in August 2019.
“Involving people in gardening brings joy back to their lives because they can do things they used to when they were physically able. And the residents who in wheelchairs can also do gardening,” Mr Mathew told AAA.
“Residents feel valued and respected when they are able to contribute to the community,” Mr Mathew said.
In addition to helping residents and students to build relationships, the program aims to grow produce to distribute within the local community, such as to food banks and churches.
“The main goals of the project were to give an opportunity for the residents and the students to spend time together regularly and build social relationships. And also to provide an opportunity for residents to contribute to their community even though they are in an aged care home,” Mr Mathew said.
There are five residents and 15 high school students who actively take part in the program plus several other residents who watch and sometimes participate, Mr Mathew said.
The program is having a positive impact on the mood and behaviour of participants and encourages physical activity, he said.
“It gives residents an opportunity to spend time with the children, which improves their mood and gives them something to look forward to every fortnight,” Mr Mathew said.
“We have exercise programs, but this promotes residents’ independence and physical function,” he said.
“It also enhances quality of life because it’s an opportunity for residents to enjoy the outdoor environment, fresh air and warm sunshine.
“Residents never used to go to that area, now we have residents going around for a walk and sitting in the garden,” Mr Mathew said.
The program took a break over the school holidays but is set to resume again this year, Mr Mathew said.
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