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Following on our earlier post here about getting our clients and caregivers out into the garden, and how health promoting working and being with plants is, I thought I'd talk a little about therapeutic or healing gardens. These are fairly new types of landscape design concepts and practices, though in many ways gardens for healing, restoration, respite, and sanctuary have always been present since the time humans first started nurturing plants.
There are a number of different types of therapeutic or healing gardens, some with general healing intents, and others with more specific purposes. There are healing gardens designed specifically for Alzheimer, cancer, psychiatric or rehab center patients. Other gardens focus on assisted living facilities, residential memory units, adult day care or continuing care communities, or vocational schools. And yet others are intended for respite or meditation.
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Many people get the urge to plant something come this time of year. To some of us it may not matter WHAT (flower, vegetable, herb, etc), as long as we're playing in the dirt and growing things. I had my first garden at 4 years old (taught by my grandfather), and it's blossomed (pun intended) to the point that this year we'll have nearly 4000 sq ft in agricultural use, mostly for raising food. I plan on gardening in whatever way possible until I'm ready to be planted!
It's very likely that some of our clients feel strongly this way, too. In my eyes, these feelings are a sign of underlying wellness and an innate instinct toward better health. Eminent biologist E.O. Wilson calls our natural longing for contact with other forms of natural life "biophilia;" it is an aspect of our wellbeing to be drawn to life this way. As caregivers, we can help nurture our elders' need to make this type of contact by helping them get their hands a little dirty.
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