To celebrate Chinese New Year in January, residents at Mt. Baker Care Center created a bouquet of vibrant-colored flowers and hand-delivered them to center administrator Catherine Reis-El Bara.
They weren’t purchased at a local grocery store or floral shop. They were homegrown in the center’s indoor mobile sensory garden.
“I was so honored,” Reis-El Bara said. “It was just so wonderful. There were definitely tears.”
Mt. Baker Care Center, a Nightingale Healthcare Community, has partnered with Seattle-based Eldergrow to bring a mobile sensory garden and indoor therapeutic horticulture program to its residents. Last fall, the organizations came together to host an event for Mt. Baker residents to begin filling the garden with vibrant flowers and fragrant herbs.
Eldergrow offers seniors living in residential and personal-care communities a therapeutic connection to nature through gardening programs that bring nature indoors. Recent studies show that horticultural therapy reduces depression; improves balance, coordination and endurance; and lowers the risk factors for dementia by 36%.
The mobile sensory garden brings nature inside 12 months a year. Eldergrow educators teach evidence-based therapeutic horticulture classes that improve life for elders living in residential and nursing care.
Residents engage with the Eldergrow garden physically, socially, cognitively, creatively, sustainably and spiritually.
On average, about 20 residents participate in the garden. Every other Friday there is a group activity. The mobile garden contains a grow light, tailored to the needs of the plants, which produces flowers and plants rich in color and texture.
Some residents simply like to stand near the grow light, Reis-El Bara said. In the depths of cold and cloudy Bellingham winters, she said, she believes it helps residents combat seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.
“We are delighted to incorporate Eldergrow’s innovative programming here at Mt. Baker Care Center,” Reis-El Bara said. “Our team is always looking for new and innovative ways to engage our residents. The new garden will give our residents the opportunity to create something with their own hands, giving them a sense of pride as they use the plants they grow for fun activities and culinary programs.”
Mt. Baker Care Center is the first senior-living community to use Eldergrow’s therapeutic garden in the city of Bellingham. Eldergrow’s Expert Educators will be on site to teach and build relationships with the Mt. Baker residents through ongoing enrichment classes including culinary and garden art curriculum.
According to Eldergrow, evidence-based benefits of therapeutic horticulture are:
▪ Improvement of motor skills.
▪ Reduction in risk factors for dementia.
▪ Elevating mood.
▪ Improving sleep.
▪ Reducing falls.
▪ Reducing agitation.
▪ Improvement of self-esteem.
▪ Acting as an antidepressant.
“Eldergrow’s indoor gardens not only bring nature inside, but also provide proven mental and physical benefits, while giving residents renewed purpose” said Orla Concannon, Eldergrow founder and CEO. “We are excited to grow smiles and laughter with the residents of Mt. Baker Care Center.”
Correspondent Cindy Uken is an award-winning veteran journalist.