The importance of gardens as places for relaxation, engagement and connection has been long recognised, with the benefits heightened during the current pandemic.
For residents of nursing homes, social isolation has become an added challenge. Mission Australia’s Benjamin Short Grove (BSG) aged care facility in Orange has successfully introduced new outdoor activities to engage and give purpose to the lives of the people in their care.
Community Greening works collaboratively to empower communities supporting them to grow, share and learn together to create garden spaces, predominantly in social housing areas.
In 2017, prior to the facility welcoming people coming from homelessness or the at-risk of homelessness, Community Greening became involved with the BSG garden project. Together we worked towards creating gardens that were colourful, engaging and would foster a sense of pride.
Prior to the facility being placed in lockdown in March 2020, I would visit the site once per month, supplying plants and garden activities to engage the residents and help with the creation of special garden spaces.
As COVID-19 restrictions heightened and visits to garden groups became more difficult, Community Greening introduced the Community Virtual (CV) Greening Challenge for their gardeners throughout NSW. The aim was to keep gardeners' hands and minds busy completing projects. To assist with the CV Challenge, the team at Community Greening assisted with providing resources to reduce any obstacles to engagement and checked in on the progress of projects.
Benjamin Short Grove nominated their newly-created work shed for the challenge. Building Manager Paul Davidson says “Since the start of the Work Shed in May it is amazing the projects that have been completed. A bird aviary was constructed in the courtyard, now home to budgies plus additional raised garden beds have been planted with vegetables and flowers. We have expanded our plant nursery area where we propagate plants and grow seedlings.
Elm tree seedlings were grown on and a welcoming avenue is now planted along the boundary of the property. Crushed granite paths allow safe access to the latest feature, a yarning circle, complete with a fire pit. To compliment the firepit the group made a firewood storage rack that would look at home in a garden magazine. To date the group have restored 9 pieces of furniture which have all been placed along the paths and in the yarning circle.”
On the first day of spring, residents were invited to the yarning circle with the first lighting of the fire pit and cooking and sharing celebratory damper. A highlight was the work shed participants receiving their winner’s certificates for the CV Challenge.
The BSG Garden project has been nominated for an Australian Institute of Horticulture award, with the nomination endorsed by Dr Theresa Scott, Dementia Research Development Fellow from The University of Queensland.
Learn more about the Community Greening program here.