Growing Support is an award winning social enterprise supporting older people living in care to be active in the garden and stay connected with their local community.

 Most people recognise that spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active makes us feel better. Studies show that regular gardening as part of a sociable group can help older people feel a renewed sense of purpose and belonging, reduce agitation and improve sleep and appetite. Yet as people grow older, particularly if they have dementia, they are less likely to be active and more likely to lose the confidence to spend time outdoors, join a group or try something new.

Growing Support supports thriving gardening groups in 30 care homes and community gardens in the South West. Our typical gardener is over 70 and living with day-to-day challenges such as difficulty following instructions, problems remembering how to do small tasks, limited mobility or issues with sight or hearing. And yet, our gardeners are always busy enjoying all kinds of jobs such as growing food, creating colourful flower displays or helping attract wildlife by making bug hotels.

Each group is supported by trained, local volunteers. They provide individual support for the more difficult tasks so that everyone can take part and feel a sense of achievement. An important part of the volunteer’s role is to help create a cheerful social atmosphere, chatting with the gardeners and encouraging reminiscence and story telling.

Perhaps the best way to describe what we do is through the experience of one of our gardeners: Doreen has dementia and was very agitated and upset when she arrived at the gardening club. Care staff commented that she was ‘inconsolable, no matter what we try’. A Growing Support volunteer walked around the garden with her and they chatted until she became calmer. The group leader then supported her to plant flowers using a long handled trowel so that she didn’t have to bend. After an hour Doreen was much calmer and interacting with the rest of the group, laughing when they laughed, and contributing to group activity. Care staff were amazed at the change in her!

It’s easy for care homes to get involved. On June 17th 2016 we are running the first ever Growing Support Gardening Challenge in partnership with Care Home Open Day. We want more residents than ever before to be active outdoors in the garden. The Growing Support Gardening Challenge isn’t about great gardens – its about great people. We want to celebrate the fantastic achievements of residents and staff and hope that everyone taking part in Care Home Open Day will turn their garden into a lively hub of community activity and enter the competition to tell us all about it.

Don’t worry if you don’t have green fingers or a big garden – we’ve provided lots of easy and creative ideas on our website for how to take part.

More information about the Growing Support Gardening Challenge with details about how to enter, great prizes and step by step activity guides to help get started are available on the Growing Support website http://growingsupport.co.uk/gardening-challenge/

 To find out more about the health and wellbeing benefits of social and therapeutic horticulture activities or how to set up a gardening group in your care home please visit our website www.growingsupport.co.uk or drop us a line at info@growingsupport.co.uk.