Therapeutic landscapes connect people to the healing power of nature | Home & Garden


The therapeutic benefits of a garden environment have been documented since ancient times, according to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, but it’s something many of us know instinctively: exposure to nature makes us feel good. and contributes to our well-being.

In the world of landscape architecture, however, it’s a fairly new concept.

In his 1984 study, “View Through a Window”, Roger Ulrich, professor of agriculture at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, advanced the link between the environment and human behavior by examining the recovery of hospitalized patients whose windows overlooked a natural environment. stage.

“Ulrich’s 1984 study … has encouraged landscape architects to understand the benefits of therapeutic landscaping through environmental psychology,” says Joe Lutz, landscape architect at RGS Associates in Lancaster.

Originally found in hospital settings, the concept of therapeutic landscaping is gaining popularity in retirement communities, churches and even backyards.

“A therapeutic landscape, or healing garden, is a natural space designed to meet specific physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs,” says Lutz.

Every garden design is centered on those who use the space and their surroundings.

Lutz explains how the smell of a flower, the movement of grasses, the sound of running water, the colors of flowers and plants, and walkways evoke positive emotional responses. These answers have the power to heal, comfort and increase our happiness.

The courtyard garden at Garden Spot Village’s Meadow View Memory Support in New Holland encompasses all the attributes of a healing garden.

Lutz designed the Meadow View Garden with staff ideas. The result is a peaceful, scenic, fenced 9,000 square foot garden with ornamental grasses and trees, deciduous and evergreen shrubs, and perennials.

“Biophilic design, which connects residents to nature, is especially important for people with dementia,” says Steve Lindsey, CEO of Garden Spot Communities.

Lindsey agrees with Ulrich that physical environments can have a positive effect on well-being. Residents thrive sitting, walking or enjoying social activities like tea parties, barbecues and music concerts in the garden, he says.

The Meadow View Garden includes Ulrich’s four defining characteristics: a sense of control and access to privacy; social support spaces; physical movement (places for walking with interconnected spaces); and natural distractions.

Two shaded porches from the Amber and Pearl houses open onto the courtyard. Concrete walkways tinted to reduce glare are figure-eight to provide secure freedom. A small sandy beach, artificial grass lawn, kiddy pool, small pavilion, wind sculptures, and comfortable seating add to a resort-like setting.

With sweeping views of Lancaster County farmland and mountains, Lindsey says Meadow View residents have multiple opportunities to interact with nature, from bird watching to bee and butterfly watching. that pollinate plants and flowers.

“It’s wonderful to see the joy of residents taking ownership of the garden — watering and weeding, picking fruits and vegetables,” says Melody Karick, Manager of Meadow View.

Another important benefit, she says, is the ability to enjoy the garden all year round, day and night, outside and inside thanks to the many windows.

The Willow Valley Communities of Willow Street has added the Garden Room at Cedar Brook to The Glen on its Willow Valley Manor Campus.

Designed by the CCS Building Group of Willow Street, the Memory Support Facility’s 1,400-square-foot room includes a 375-square-foot indoor garden. Careful planning has been done to create a natural outdoor feel to the space and provide a safe and structured environment that allows freedom of movement.

“With its high ceiling, natural lighting, and a balance of living vegetation including grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees, the indoor garden offers colorful seasonal beauty,” says Cedar Brook Manager Travis Adams. Realistic birds can be found among plants and trees.

An overhead sound system plays the sounds of birds chirping and whistling as well as other nature sounds, such as water whispering over rocks in a stream.

Research supports the auditory and sensory stimulation that therapeutic gardens provide for all levels of dementia, says Recreation Therapy Coordinator Whitney Hackman.

Bird identification books, magazines and flora coloring books are available for residents and guests. Tables, chairs and benches make the room a perfect place for family visits, special occasions and programs.

“Our Green Thumb Club in Willow Valley as well as some Cedar Brook residents maintain the garden, watering, cutting, replacing and planting fresh plants,” says Hackman.

Adams says residents love entering the room, which actually feels like being outside. Large bay windows enhance the outdoor landscape. Access to the garden is available 24/7.

Benefits of the backyard

Therapeutic landscapes aren’t just for hospitals and retirement communities.

Christa Shoreman, Master Gardener Coordinator for the Penn State Extension in Lancaster County, gives two reasons why backyard gardening can help everyone’s overall well-being. First, a garden can produce fresh, high-quality food for healthy eating. Second, being able to design your own garden environment can lift your spirits.

Maintaining a garden can provide people with rare solitary moments, she says.

“This time can be valuable for focusing on the task at hand or letting thoughts wander and help deal with issues that are bothering you,” she says.

Shoreman studied therapeutic horticulture through the American Horticultural Therapy Association at Temple University. But she focuses on science-based information to help home gardeners succeed.

“Your space should be tailored to your needs and goals,” she says.

For her, planting is an act of the house and gives something to look forward to, whether it’s a never-before-grown flower or a delicious tomato to eat when in season.

Shoreman says she believes a garden can reflect our own life stories. From setbacks like caterpillars eating kale seedlings to triumphs like raspberries surviving the onslaught of Japanese beetles. Harvesting what you plant, says Shoreman, creates a sense of pride and brings satisfaction.

Home gardeners can reap the benefits of garden therapy by starting small, collecting photos and ideas. Penn State Extension has many resources on its website plus a garden hotline at [email protected]

If your garden isn’t reaping the benefits you hoped for, Shoreman says, “Don’t give up, ask questions and keep trying. A garden is good therapy.


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