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‘Let’s Dig In’ aged care gardening team takes State gong

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Bolton Clarke’s ‘Lets Dig In’ therapeutic gardening team is celebrating a win at Leading Aged Services Australia Awards for Excellence (Queensland Team category) announced on Aged Care Employee Day, Friday 7 August.

“We are all thrilled to pieces. It was a true team effort to get this project off the ground – literally,” said Bolton Clarke Research Institute Senior Research Fellow Liz Cyarto.

The ‘Let’s Dig In’ team brings together members of the Bolton Clarke Research Institute, care team members and the catering and hospitality team to deliver a therapeutic gardening program.

The program supports increased physical activity and greater wellbeing for residents as they grow and eat their own fresh produce.

Bolton Clarke Research Institute Fellow Xanthe Golenko said the program design was based on a therapeutic approach. “It was more than just an activity,” she said. “It was about the overall benefit from a very holistic perspective, so not only the physical wellbeing – increasing residents’ physical activity, but also the social and emotional wellbeing. The fact that residents were coming together and interacting, sharing knowledge and learning from each other and seeing something they have produced from start to finish, gives a sense of purpose and achievement. It is really fulfilling.”

Inverpine rsidential aged care team members underwent training from Horticultural Therapist Cath Manuel in areas including therapeutic horticulture, gardening for people with dementia, therapy gardens, growing fresh food for the kitchen and how to implement a gardening program.

Team members work with residents on activities including seed sowing, propagating cuttings, herb planting, building the vegetable gardens in the raised beds provided and harvesting.

Diversional Therapist Rekha Singh said residents had been excited to take ownership of the project from planting and sowing to weeding, watering and harvest.

Resident Marion has taken responsibility for maintaining one of the gardens. As a result, she has lengthened her regular walks to include twice-daily visits to the garden beds, checking progress and picking fresh flowers for her room.

“My love of life and gardening has returned,” she said.

Resident Gloria’s window overlooks the garden and she has become the unofficial garden security.

“I see everyone coming and going,” she said. “I know if we’re getting too overzealous with picking the flowers or watering the vegetables.”

Retirement living residents volunteer with the projec and catering team members have worked to integrate produce from the gardens into new menus, turning the first harvest of capsicum, basil, silver beet and pak choy into a delicious Mongolian stir fry lunch for residents. 

Inverpine residents have already enjoyed two meals with vegetables from their garden and have also shared the produce with other Bolton Clarke communities.

“It’s got the creative juices flowing,” Bolton Clarke Acting General Manager Hotel Services Caroline Lucas said. “We enjoy working with what residents have grown and love the collaboration!”

The ‘Let’s Dig In’ team is now in the running to take out the National Award for their category against other state winners. The Team will share in the excitement with Bolton Clarke’s Rowes Bay aged care community Diversional Therapist, Chezz Thompson, who won the Queensland Individual category award.