Growing social connections through gardening

A new gardening project is sowing the seeds for growing friendships between some of Laidley’s oldest and youngest green thumbs.

The inter-generational gardening initiative sees residents of the Carinity Karinya Place aged care community and Laidley State High School students work together to grow and harvest vegetables.

“The main idea of the project is to have school students come and garden with our residents and grow healthy organic vegetables and to assist in educating children about the nutritional and health benefits of vegetables,” Carinity Karinya Place Residential Manager Tuttu Mathew says.

“Once the vegetables are grown, we aim to donate the produce to the local community food banks or churches. The residents feel valued and respected when they are able to contribute to their community and share their knowledge and their experience with younger people.”

The gardening project, launched during Queensland Seniors Week, is also an opportunity for residents and students to build social relationships.

“We have a few residents with no family, so they enjoy having the students around them as it reminds them of their own children and grandchildren, making the visits something to look forward to,” Tuttu says.

Carinity Karinya Place Diversional Therapist Therese Crust says gardening delivers therapeutic and social benefits for residents of the aged care community, some as old as 103.

“We encourage residents to become more active by providing an opportunity to take up gardening, which involves exercise and promotes residents’ independence and physical functioning,” Therese says.

“This project will enhance the quality of life of our residents, providing an opportunity for them to enjoy the outdoor environment, fresh air, warm sunshine and natural surroundings.

“Most of our residents had their own gardens so again being involved in gardening brings joy as they can do things they used to do when they were more physically able.”

Raised garden beds enable less-mobile residents in wheelchairs to water plants and tend to the garden.

“We are not only building veggie gardens but also flower gardens and our staff will teach residents how to make a flower bouquet,” Therese says.

Laidley State High School teacher Michael Pick says the initiative is part of the students’ community engagement program which “aims to tear down some of the barriers between young people and community groups”.

“Teens at this age often have very strong peer relationships, but frequently they have very little engagement with other groups. The focus this year has been on creating opportunities for intergenerational interaction through involvement in two nursing homes and interacting with young school students at a local primary school,” Michael explains.

“We believe that there are numerous benefits to the program for our students. For some, developing self-confidence in new situations is most important, and for others it might be more about developing independence.

“Whilst individual benefits may differ, we are confident that the program encourages all students to consider the needs of those around them and to ‘put back’ into the community.”

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