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Gardening project gives residents purpose and joy



“I love gardening and sowing seeds - this took me back to long summer days in my own garden with my children. The smells, the feel of the leaves, it was just lovely to get to be a part of that again,” according to a nursing home resident talking about a HSE horticultural therapy project.  “The garden club made me feel like I was a part of something a bit different than the normal activities we do. It was nice to do it all together in a group. It provided a lovely sense of calm and peace and I would just love to do it again”.

The four-week social and therapeutic horticulture project was piloted across 5 HSE Community Healthcare East sites in 2022 (Dalkey Community Unit for Older Persons, St Colman’s Residential Care Centre, Clonskeagh Community Nursing Unit, Hawthorns (disability service) and Carew House). The programme was run by Health Promotion and Improvement Officer Fiona Brauneisen and Therapeutic Horticulture Practitioner Marie Hirst and its success led to its continuation and expansion this year.

Fiona explained that social and therapeutic horticulture is a “therapeutic practice used to improve health and wellbeing through actively involving patients and clients in caring for plants. Activities are facilitated by a therapeutic horticulture practitioner, or other professionals such as occupational therapists with appropriate training.  It includes propagating plants, identifying and planting seeds and using plants in crafting.

“The aim of the programme is to increase the wellbeing of participants across all sites post-Covid through caring and working with plants. More specifically, the programme seeks to increase social inclusion, physical activity and self-care. We also set out to decrease stress and loneliness amongst service users and residents. A different theme is covered each week. The themes include activities that allow participants to appreciate nature, learning how to propagate plants and create a planter. After each session there is a product that each participant can keep and according to those involved, this added to a sense of ownership and purpose. The main impact reported in the project evaluation was an increase in social inclusion and wellbeing.”

The 2023 programme is well underway, with activity co-ordinators from each of the sites undergoing training with Therapeutic Horticulture Practitioner Marie Hirst from Unwind with Plants, so that these activities can be sustained into the future. 

Listen to residents and staff at St Colman’s Residential Care Centre talk about the gardening project (Youtube)