Lots of recent research has shown that gardening is good for you. As well as providing physical exercise, being outside in nature can benefit us mentally, helping to reduce anxiety and make us feel better about ourselves. Horticultural therapy uses gardening to build self-esteem and confidence, improve social skills and develop new skills.
Could this be for you, or someone you care for? Find out more about the benefits of therapeutic gardening at Ridgeline.
In the Ridgeline garden, physical activity is part of the normal routine, from walking between different areas of the garden (such as compost bins, greenhouse, tool shed) to bending and stretching whilst carrying out tasks such as dead-heading, planting, and weeding. These and other regular activities help to improve physical fitness, mobility and fine and gross motor skills, while reducing risk factors such as heart disease. Physical activity has also been shown to improve mental health, building self-confidence, reducing anxiety and helping with depression, as well as stimulating those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. For many clients, the garden offers opportunities for physical activity that they may not have elsewhere, and to learn new practical and organisational skills that they can apply in other areas of their life, even in some cases to help them to gain employment. Clients with limited mobility can still engage in gardening activities with the support of our volunteers, and tasks are adapted to suit individual needs, for example by using our raised beds.
Some tasks provide instant gratification is immediate – the garden looks visibly better after a little maintenance. What’s more, watching plants grow and flourish under their care gives clients satisfaction, improving their self-esteem. Some horticultural tasks (such as seed-sowing) can stimulate cognitive skills through aiding memory, improving concentration, developing sequencing skills and allowing for the opportunity to follow instructions effectively.
Benefits from the environment
The garden environment offers the chance to escape from the indoors to a natural outdoor setting that is calm and restful. Many of our clients have remarked on how much they value the peaceful setting of the Ridgeline garden. As well as the immediate benefit of fresh air and sunshine, they enjoy walking around, looking at the colour and shape of the plants, listening to bird song and observing the change of seasons. The garden stimulates the senses. This can be particularly beneficial for clients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, through the role colour, smell and texture play in stimulating feelings and memories. In addition, gardeners get to see and taste the fruits of their work, providing a very tangible benefit.
Benefits from communication and social interaction
The horticultural activities, craft work, and cookery creates a sense of belonging, camaraderie and achievement for clients and volunteers, all of which help promote positive mental health and well-being. The popular tea breaks and lunch times provide the opportunity to engage in and develop clients’ social and communication skills. In the relaxed environment fostered by the therapists and volunteers, clients rate the social side of things as a major part of what they enjoy at Ridgeline.