The construction of retirement homes over the past few years seems to be on the rise. I suppose in part, due to the retirement of “baby boom” generation, those born between 1946 and 1964.
As this segment and other segments of the population ages, many of them are considering selling their homes and moving into some sort of a retirement facility. Retirement and health care facilities over the years, have come a long way in providing all different levels of amenities and care. Of course, the greater level of amenities and care provided translates into the amount of money a couple or family Is willing or required to pay.
However, in the past few years while looking at some of these retirement places, I have noticed in many places an almost total lack of any outdoor garden space for the resident’s use. Places where a family can gather or a place where a person can go an experience a quiet outdoor moment to take in the plants and trees.
A place that is therapeutic and engaging in nature for the mind, the body, spirit and emotions.
I don’t see a lot of that in the current number of new retirement homes or health care facilities. Perhaps they haven’t yet realized the sustaining and healing power of nature. It has been shown through research that the ability to take in natural views is correlated with quicker healing. Even more so if one participates in some aspect of horticulture by actually getting their hands dirty while planting.
The general perception of these types of gardens seems to be that they are amenities rather than an integral part of well-being. Perhaps competing priorities work against their inclusion, without much commitment and funding. They may become small scale, low budget, volunteer projects.
These gardens whether they are contemplative gardens, therapeutic gardens or healing gardens all require a commitment from their respective hosts.
When designers design accessible spaces, we are designing not just for the disabled, we are designing for everyone. A space that can accommodate all aspects of the human condition, which is beautiful, natural, lush, and green. A space that offers a range of opportunities, and experiences that engages and enriches those who use it.
Unfortunately this is not prevalent in many retirement or in health care facilities in this area. For retirement places, these types of gardens spaces could provide a marketing incentive. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place where the site provides an outdoor area devoted to one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being? As for health care facilities, whether short or long term, studies have shown faster healing and recovery times for places that provide an outdoor healing space. With faster healing times comes better availability and space use planning.
Retirement, health and ill health are a continuum. Therefore, a well-designed and executed beautiful garden space does become a restorative treasure.