Gardens That Heal: A Prescription for Wellness

Ezer Mizion’s Malka Hager Fitness Center has incorporated Horticulture Therapy among its services for the senior population.Malka Hager Fitness Center Project Chayil volunteers – who give over nutrition workshops, lectures on balance and coordination, perform hearing tests, etc. – participated in a training course on Horticulture Therapy for the elderly.The course trained them in seed, sapling and sprout planting techniques, plant cultivation, types of plants and their characteristic needs, the use of pesticides and general safety measures.

A major portion of the course dealt with herbal gardening and the health and healing powers of the different plants. The halachic mandates relating to plants were also addressed, including kilayim, shmittah, traditional blessings (e.g. minei besamim, atzei besamim, etc.), and more.

Horticulture therapy is the modern professional discipline that uses planting and gardening activities to help people improve their physical and psychological wellbeing. Horticulture activities include plant propagation, flower arranging, nature crafts, and indoor and outdoor gardening.

These activities offer opportunities to stimulate cognitive and sensory development and allow for decision making, problem solving, sequencing, focusing and following directions. Horticulture therapy group sessions promote communication and encourage cooperation and sharing. They also develop fine motor skills, strength and activity tolerance (Wichrowski, Chambers and Ciccantelli, 1998).

Research has demonstrated that these garden based activities can reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, improve concentration and enhance feelings of productivity and self-worth that often are lost by the senior population (Ulrich and Parsons, 1992; Rusk 2003, unpublished data). The program also provides opportunities to introduce or to reacquaint the elderly with the wonder and benefits of nature: sun, exercise and beauty.


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