Vegetable gardening is a vital part of community life at Aveo Hunter’s Green Retirement Village in Cranbourne East, Victoria.
“It’s bigger than just a garden,” says resident Meredith Glasson. Mrs Glasson oversaw the Village garden’s growth over the last nine years, from two raised veggie patches to a project that touches the whole village community.
“It gives you a feeling of achievement.”
“Once you get into gardening, it’s big. Because there are so many little things that are connected to it,” Mrs Glasson said.
As well as a gardening club which goes on monthly gardening tours, Hunters Green holds an annual garden competition to fundraise for charity. Residents might volunteer to look after other residents’ gardens, and there is a summer roster for daily watering.
“Some people, they might never go out in the garden but they’ll come in, 7 o’clock in the morning and water.”
Non-gardeners also benefit from the fruit and veggies grown in the garden.
“We sell them here, in the community centre. We set it up like a little stall, every Saturday morning. Everybody knows it’s there. They all come over and get their veggies on a Saturday morning and they put (a gold coin) in an honour box.”
“So it can be quite self-supporting if you do it the right way.”
Benefits of gardening for the elderly
Horticultural Therapist Cath Manuel said gardening benefits aged care residents’ physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing, due to something called biophilia.
“Biophilia means that in all of us we have an innate connection to other living things, and when we connect with other living things – whether it’s other humans, other animals, nature, plants, earth, birds, bees, all that is in nature – it improves our emotional wellbeing. It balances our emotions,” Mrs Manuel said.
“Connecting with nature can lift spirits and bring some happiness.”
“So when someone is feeling, say, depressed or a bit low… by connecting with nature it can actually lift their spirits up and bring them some happiness”.
Mrs Manuel said gardening provides a sense of home for residents.
“The thing that I’ve come across so much is most people were gardeners before they went into aged care, and then when they go into aged care they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their contact with their gardens and the little things they used to be able to do, and that then affects their psychological wellbeing.”
Mrs Glasson said recently the village bought a $4000 hot house so residents can propagate their own seeds.
“We asked the residents’ committee and they thought there were enough residents to warrant (it). There were enough people in the gardening club, it was a going concern, they were impressed, so they put up the money for the hot house.”
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, when you see something grow and you pick it and you sell it and you turn it over of course it gives you a feeling, you know. It gives you a feeling of achievement.”
Meredith announced she was off to make her dinner, which included vegetables from the garden and home-grown rhubarb for dessert.