Throughout our lives we engage with the outside in some way on most days of the year, whether it is to get in the car to go to work, pop to the shops or visit friends and family. We step over the threshold, get to breathe in the fresh air and feel the sun or the wind on our face. We choose our clothes to reflect the conditions and vary our activities to reflect the seasons from barbecues in summer to scraping the car windscreen in winter.
Yet if we try to recall the last time we didn’t go out at all it often coincides with having been ‘under the weather’, confined indoors to overcome an illness or to recuperate. That first deep breath on the first day we step back outside can bring a huge feeling of relief that we are back up and about.
So why are our gardens in care settings ignored for such a large part of the year, when it can still provide an amazing and ever changing free resource?
As Spring approaches we naturally begin to turn our attention to the outside, considering what activities, jobs and repairs need to be done now that the weather is improving and the days are getting longer. Planning may begin with choosing and sowing seeds, setting dates for garden tea parties for later in the summer and other much enjoyed outside activities.
But what about all those other days throughout the rest of the year? At a recent workshop at a home with a really sunny garden, sheltered from the wind, it would have been lovely to be outside for a short stroll or even a cup of tea. Appropriately dressed it was an ideal setting to have made the most of a beautiful sunny winter’s day, yet it had not occurred to the home to venture outside. One activity coordinator even realised that they themselves would be getting outside when they got home as it was such a nice day but hadn’t thought of using the care setting garden to go outside with residents at all.
During our research project into why care setting gardens were not more actively used, numerous observations were made capturing residents saying phrases like “Ooh lovely, a breath of fresh air”; “What a lovely day”; “Its good to be in the fresh air”. These positive reactions to going outside, even after a short visit, show how appreciated simply stepping into the garden can be.
In some homes in our research project we saw lovely examples where the garden was used on most days of the year to enable residents to engage meaningfully as and when they choose. Activities included hanging the washing, (what a great windy day activity!), shovelling snow, raking leaves, watering the plants and simply feeding the birds or taking a walk.
So take a look outside, is there a nice day out there going to waste?
Why don’t we go into the garden?
More information about our research and some helpful downloads are available on our website: www.stepchange-design.co.uk