Growing support

“It’s good for everybody” – Karen, a Growing Support volunteer

Time outdoors gardening and growing is good for everyone’ mental health. Victoria Hill from Growing Support shares some ideas about developing gardening activities with your local community.

1. Talk is easy

Because gardening or nature-based tasks are about getting something done, there’s a focus that helps the conversation flow. Short, structured activities such as planting potatoes in a container, harvesting fragrant herbs or filling up the bird table are a good place to start.

2. Little and often

Gardening doesn’t have to be on a grand scale, start small and keep going. There will always be a new thing to do, if you plant seeds you’ll need to water them; thin them; plant them out, feed them, water them some more, pick the results and possibly eat what you’ve grown! It’s purposeful activity and that’s why it’s good for our brains.

3. Local groups are often happy to help

Sometimes it’s easier to approach groups than individuals. A nearby church, school, allotment society, WI, wildlife group or community centre might have a project that your residents could join in with. Or they might like to come to your care home. Asking is the first step.

4. Offer time, tools and support

Be clear about what you are asking volunteers to do. Think tasks through and find the tools, time and space they need to do them. Provide things like seeds, soil and pots, but also guidance on how best to engage people with dementia or how to break down activities into small manageable tasks. There are lots of helpful free resources online.

5. A risky business?

It’s important to take a positive approach to risk. Keep a clear focus on the benefits that taking part in activities can bring and work out how risks can be minimised or managed. The example risk assessment on our website might help you shape yours. Download a sample risk assessment

Growing Support run nature-based therapeutic activities for older people.

Their website has ideas for activities and some great, short inspiring films.

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