In July 2019, I met John Livingstone from Orwell Housing group who had been asked by elderly residents at Deben View sheltered housing scheme if they could have a gardening club. John and I discussed the way this could work well with ‘This Community Can’ as it would help elderly residents become active within their community and enable them to socialise with volunteers.
Through www.volunteersuffolk.org.uk I recruited volunteer Katherine Lowe who lives locally and was keen to give something back in her own community. Katherine enjoys the outdoors and at our initial meeting and tour of the gardens, it became clear that she would relish the opportunity to spend time and energy working with the residents to create a garden that would benefit all and she had lots of ideas and enthusiasm for the project.
While chatting to the residents; it emerged that one gentleman, Tony, had worked as a landscape gardener and he was really excited about the opportunity to be part of a group sharing his experience and being outside doing something he had always enjoyed. Tony has been married for 56 years and his wife Diana lives with him but needs daily assistance from a carer due to her advancing dementia. Tony explained that he is benefitting from time spent working in the garden while his wife is being cared for as it is precious time away from the pressure of her health needs and that he is doing something he loves which makes him feel better about things and keeps his mind active. Tony also assists at the home with activities for the other residents and in local church groups where he runs boccia and curling.
When I arrived, Tony was trimming back a tree and was being helped by Paul, a resident whose wife has mobility problems and relies on him for care. Like Tony, he is enjoying the chance to be pursuing his own interests and has lots of great ideas for the gardens, including a new accessible greenhouse to enable residents with mobility issues to enjoy potting and spending time with nature in a safe and comfortable setting. Katherine now volunteers weekly and already the change is evident, both in the garden and more importantly in the enthusiasm of the residents who are working with her. Katherine and the Deben Diggers have great ideas for the gardens and I look forward to seeing the future developments at Deben View.