Did you know that tending to a garden can have a positive impact on health? Research has shown that therapeutic gardening, also known as horticulture therapy, can have numerous health benefits for older adults.
Horticulture Therapy at Miami Jewish Health
Thanks to the generosity of Susan and Robert Shor, as well as seed funding from the NextFifty Initiative, Miami Jewish Health now offers horticulture therapy sessions with certified therapists at the Shor Family Horticulture Garden on our main campus. The garden features raised flower beds that are suitable for wheelchair users, as well as widened pathways to ensure accessibility for people of all ages and mobility levels. Additionally, plenty of on-site seating and communal tables enhance the garden into an outdoor classroom, as well as a place for socializing. Every element of the garden is intentionally designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature.
What is Horticulture Therapy?
Horticulture therapy is a therapeutic practice that involves using plants and gardening to improve physical health and mental well-being. In a typical horticulture therapy session, participants will work with a trained horticulture therapist who helps them make connections between gardening and their life experiences. They may be asked to plant seeds, water plants, prune plants, or harvest fruits and vegetables. Horticulture therapists guide seniors through the activities, teaching them about the plants they are working with and how to care for them properly.
Beyond just the endeavor of gardening, horticulture therapy sessions can also include sensory exploration of plants, nature walks, and art projects using natural materials. Activities can be tailored to individual needs and abilities, making it a suitable therapy for seniors with varying levels of mobility. All these activities work together to create a therapeutic experience that engages the minds, bodies, and emotions of older adults.
Benefits of Horticulture Therapy for Seniors
Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Gardening can be a soothing and calming activity that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. Focusing on the simple, hands-on tasks of plant care can put one into a meditative mindset – helping to clear the mind and settle the nerves. Seniors who engage in horticulture therapy often experience a sense of tranquility that helps them feel more relaxed.
Improved Physical Health: Gardening involves many physical movements – such as bending, lifting, and reaching – that can help improve strength, coordination, and endurance. Horticulture therapy can help seniors improve their physical health and reduce their risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Enhanced Cognition: Gardening requires focus and attention to detail. In a study by Cambridge University, researchers found that gardening activities generated higher levels of productive engagement and positive affect in people with dementia compared to other types of engagement activities. With regular horticulture therapy, older adults can improve their cognitive skills, including memory and problem-solving.
Social Interaction: Social isolation among older adults is linked to higher risks for various health conditions. Horticulture therapy classes can provide seniors with opportunities to socialize with others who share similar interests. This can help reduce feelings of loneliness and improve overall mental health.
Sunny Disposition: Research shows that spending time with plants can help boost one’s mood and overall sense of wellbeing. Horticulture therapy and nurturing plants can also give seniors a sense of purpose and accomplishment, helping them maintain a positive outlook on life.
If you are interested in supporting our horticulture therapy program and helping seniors to live life better, visit the Miami Jewish Health Foundation website for giving information. Or contact Jenny Ray, Director of Development, at 305.898.5602.