Horticultural Therapy for Seniors and the Aging Population
HT can bring back memories and feelings of happy times. The scent of an herb or flower can bring about a sense of calm or even joy. HT activities can help increase motor skills and help with memory and sequencing. Potting a plant can create a sense of purpose...something to care for. Seeing a seed emerge can represent life and inspire hope. Gardening promotes physical activities and allows for fresh air. HT activities for seniors are created to insure safety. Soilless mix, gloves, adapted tools for limited motor skills or range of motion, raised beds and wheel chair access are just some the considerations when planning a program.
Therapeutic gardens and healing landscapes can be used to soothe or to stimulate. Sensory gardens are designed to stimulate, where plants with different scents, colors and textures are carefully chosen and planted in various patterns and designs.
Alzheimer’s patients who are no longer able to communicate or express themselves respond in startlingly positive ways to spending time in a sensory garden, designed to stimulate the senses with different scents, sounds, colors and textures. Aromatic flowers and herbs, variously textured surfaces, ever-green shrubs and flowering plants in different colors and shades all play their part in awakening sensory awareness. Sound is also incorporated into a sensory garden through rustling leaves, running water, and structures built to attract wild birds. Some sensory gardens include the sense of taste, by planting edible herbs, miniature fruit trees, and vegetables that can be picked and eaten.
For elderly victims of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, horticultural therapy can be a vital way of defending against further memory loss. It’s amazing to see the memories that are brought back just by being in a garden. The sight of a tree blowing in the wind, the sound of tinkling water, the smell of herbs in the hot sun – all of these are powerful memory triggers. People who bring their loved one to a memory sensory garden are often astonished by the recollections that their relative comes up with. The sights, sounds and smells of nature do not change much over time. There is a deep-seated familiarity to them, which is calming to the dementia patient who feels as though nothing can be relied on to stay the same.