A community of care home residents at Sanctuary Care are reaping the rewards of gardening therapy by growing and sowing their own produce, with fruits of their labour so far including tomatoes, courgettes, and cucumbers!

Residents with a passion for gardening and cooking have been digging, pruning, and planting as part of a new “Grow Your Own Way” initiative, harvesting fruit and vegetables indoors and out to create delicious meals in collaboration with the care home chefs.

The project is the brainchild of the not-for-profit care home provider, which delivers expert nursing, dementia, and residential care across England and Scotland. It aims to empower residents to play an active role in their own care and the running of the home by embracing former pastimes and developing new skills.

Its introduction follows research by Sheffield University academic Mike Nolan[1] which found that a sense of continuity, purpose and achievement are key to living an enriched later life.

Many studies have also shown that gardening therapy can improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia, encouraging social interaction, and evoking powerful memories[2].

Sarah Clarke-Kuehn, Chief Operating Officer – Sanctuary Care, said:

“We are always looking for new ways to enrich the lives of our residents and provide that continuity of living that we need to feel happy and fulfilled as we grow older. We know that the physical and therapeutic benefits of gardening are vast, but tending to crops and watching them also grow fosters a real sense of achievement and purpose.

“As many of our residents were keen gardeners before moving into our homes, with Grow Your Own Way, we hope to reignite our residents’ former passions and memories as they work together to plant, harvest, and cook their home-grown ingredients – ensuring they can enjoy the fruits of their labour, of course!”

Amongst Sanctuary Care’s horticulture enthusiasts is Ann Widdowson, age 90, who lives at Regent Residential Care Home in Worcester.

 Ann said: “I like planting seeds and seeing them start to grow. I’ve always done this. During the war I had Scarlett Fever and when I got better, I went to the Isle of Wight and there was a field at the back of our garden where I went to help my Dad to grow things.”

Helen Park, Activities Coordinator at Sanctuary Care’s Regent Residential Care Home, commented:

“It makes my day to see residents out in the fresh air planting seeds and looking forward to picking produce, which is then used in meals in the home. It truly enriches their lives and gives them such a sense of achievement.”

The Grow Your Own Way initiative will run year-round in all 110 Sanctuary Care homes across England and Scotland, with a carefully planned calendar of sowing, planting, and harvesting in place.

For more information on how Sanctuary Care works to enrich lives, visit: www.sanctuary-care.co.uk/enriching-lives

[1] Nolan MR, Brown, J, Davies, S, Nolan, J and Keady, J, 2006. The Senses Framework: improving care for older

people through a relationship-centred approach. Getting Research into Practice (GRIP) Report No 2. Project

Report. University of Sheffield.

[2] https://www.alzscot.org/living-with-dementia/getting-support/accessing-alzheimer-scotland-support/therapeutic-activity/horticultural-therapies