ElderGrow Helps Seniors Communities Create Indoor Kitchen Gardens and Craft Projects | Home & Garden

Betty Rutt never lets freezing temperatures, pouring rain, or the scorching sun interfere with her love of gardening. The 93-year-old tends to grow sage, saffron and other fragrant all-weather herbs in the warmth of an indoor garden on wheels located in Brethren Village, a retirement community in Lititz.

“It gets me out of my room,” says Rutt, who remembers starting a garden on her husband’s farm in Donegal Township as a newlywed years ago. This mobile collection of African blue basil, rosemary, bronze fennel, lavender, and other aromatic herbs is typically found in the first floor living room of the retirement community personal care building, which houses approximately 80 residents. .

At Legend of Lancaster in Manor Township, another senior community, Jackie Gribble grows her own coleus, a colorful herb, from cuttings from that community’s mobile garden. That way, 82-year-old Gribble can garden in his room in the centre’s memory care building along with some of the other 30 residents of the 6ft by 4ft garden cart.

“I love to garden and I love my friends,” Gribble explains. She grew up in Yorkshire, England, and remembers planting trees in her garden there.

Giving Rutt and Gribble a daily destination is just one perk of Seattle-based ElderGrow, which offers therapeutic and culinary garden programs for seniors in approximately 300 retirement communities in 23 states.

“I want to support people in this chapter of their lives,” says Orla Concannon, who started the company as part of an MBA class project at the University of Washington graduate school. The business plan won a few cash prizes, providing Concannon with the money to launch ElderGrow on Earth Day in 2015. The company now employs around 13 people.

“Serving seniors is a passion,” she says, explaining that a close relationship with her grandmother, who died at age 99, provided a personal look at the ongoing care and activities for the elderly. “Because of her, I feel like seniors are often overlooked,” says Concannon.

For example, the business owner said she saw beautiful plants, gardens and landscapes in retirement communities, but also noticed how few residents were able to cope with the lush greenery due to mobility issues. and weather.

Concannon also cites research that shows therapeutic gardening can reduce depression, lower the risk of dementia, improve balance, and lower blood pressure.






Herbs from Brethren Village’s ElderGrow Edible Garden added a fresh element to these fluffy egg cups.




A multisensory experience

The ElderGrow Culinary Garden provides herbs, recipes and monthly activities to retirement communities. Therapeutic Gardens add real ElderGrow gardeners who run programs twice a month.

Angie Martin from Manor Township is one of them. She is ElderGrow’s Client Success Manager and Garden Coach, overseeing culinary gardens across much of the East Coast and Texas. She helps retirees in the community manage their gardens.

Martin also runs the Therapeutic Garden Program at the Legend Campuses in Lancaster and Lititz, where she helps residents nurture a garden that offers experiences with the five senses.

First, garden participants study how a herb looks and learn about the plant’s country or region of origin, listening to each other and with Martin. Participants then touch their own sample of the herb, crumbling it between their fingers to touch it and access the aroma. Gardeners can also enjoy delicacies made with this herb, like hot sage tea, or corn and bean succotash, or a cocktail called Lavender Bees Knees, made with gin and infused honey syrup. lavender. Also, art projects include decorating the tops of painted pumpkins with herbs or making corn husk dolls.

“It’s an amazing job to do,” says Martin, who learned gardening from his Mennonite family. She talks about the people of Legend who recited poems on trees or created “spider” plants with black pipe cleaners for Halloween.

“It improves the quality and quantity of life for residents,” she said.

Esther Miller agrees.

“ElderGrow has a history and reputation of success with people in memory care,” says Miller, who coordinates Life Enrichment at Legend of Lancaster. “It’s a good hour of learning.






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Susan Miller, Therapeutic Recreation Manager at Brethren Village / Village Manor Personal Care, stands in front of an edible garden used for kitchen projects as part of the ElderGrow program.




Susan Miller has the same feeling in Brethren Village. She receives coaching from Martin to run a culinary garden. “We wanted to provide residents with an activity that reduces depression and improves motor skills,” Miller notes. Frères started his garden this fall. Area Legend campuses began working with ElderGrow in 2018.

January brings Scotland and winter savory herbs to Lancaster County’s ElderGrow programs. Resident gardeners will study British culture and make a herbal salt. They can also try cock-a-leekie soup, a Scottish dish made with leeks and salted broth. Plans for February include Cuban oregano which will help fill bags with potpourri.

It works for founder Concannon.

“I wanted to find a way to bring nature inside and improve the quality of life,” she says. “I am convinced that humans, at any age, can continue to grow. “

About Thomas Hereford

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