Spending time in the company of growing plants is a scientifically proven way to increase the cognitive abilities of patients and reduce their stress. Unlike many other forms of recreational therapy, it takes a little more effort and creativity to make gardening accessible to wheelchair bound patients and others with impaired mobility. Try these three techniques to give more of your patients a chance to enjoy the calming effects of a garden.
Raised Growing Tables
When you rely on a wheelchair or crutches to get around, getting down to the ground to weed around your flowers is impossible without injury or pain. A little lumber and some soil is all you need to build a growing table that brings the growing surface up to tabletop height. A 36" tall table with a 12" deep container for soil still leaves 24" for leg room, allowing wheelchair users and seated individuals to slide their chair underneath so they can reach across the surface.
Even if you only add six inches of soil to the table, your patients can still grow their own lettuce for salads or colorful annual flowers. Many shallow rooted plants also offer lovely scents or fuzzy leaves for therapeutic opportunities that engage all the senses.
Wheeled Pots and Planters
Growing tables still need to sit outside on a paved patio or courtyard. If your patients need to stay indoors instead, bring the garden to them with planters and pots on casters. Therapists can roll the containers outdoors to give the plants light, then wheel them back in when the patients are ready. Tall planters and pots raise the plants high enough for bed-bound people to appreciate.
There's no need to stick with simple potted houseplants when working with wheeled planters. Give your stationary patients more opportunities for recreation by creating a salad garden they can pick for a snack during their sessions. Small juniper bushes work well as inexpensive bonsai style trees if you'd like to make pruning a part of self-esteem boosting therapy.
For completely indoor gardening, try terrariums. A glass aquarium filled with a variety of moisture-loving plants is far more exciting and engaging for therapy patients than basic potted flowers. Mix together a variety of:
- Small bromeliads
- Air plant varieties that prefer high humidity
- Short tropical grasses
Once sealed up, these container gardens need far less attention and care than other types of planters. Patients with dementia can sit and appreciate the beauty of the growth without the chance of the plants dying because of too much or too little watering.
You can also combine the concepts of gardening with other types of therapeutic recreation if real plants aren't ideal for your therapy groups. Puzzles featuring plants and paper flower crafts still bring up memories of good times spent outdoors.