Part of what makes gardening such a beloved pastime for millions of people, is the health benefits we can gain from it. From lower stress levels and a bit of exercise, to deriving meaning from everyday life - the act of gardening is in so many ways, well beyond simply a hobby.
This is the story of how a man's life was turned around, all thanks to a garden and one determined Silver Chain Care Aide.
A broken man
When the beloved wife of my client, Vince, passed away, he found it very difficult to cope. Living alone in the same house they shared together, he was, in his own words, ‘dying of a broken heart’.
Vince has struggled with various health issues for some time. He has some vision impairment, heart issues, hip problems, and early stages of dementia. When he could no longer drive, Vince became very isolated at home. He was feeling terribly lonely and bored, with Silver Chain often his only visitors for the week.
I then began to chat to Vince about things he used to do, that he now missed. His eyes lit up as he told me about his love for gardening. He spoke about building their family home himself when he was a young man, including the fencing, the garden beds and the sheds. He put all the gardens in. He said he was deeply saddened now to see his garden overrun with weeds, looking uncared for, abandoned and unloved.
At that point, I knew the perfect project for Vince.
The project begins
I asked Vince if I could help him start a little garden project. He was resistant at first and understandably so; in Vince’s era, gardening was considered ‘men’s work’. But I was persistent. I told him about gardening projects I had completed on my own, and eventually convinced Vince that I was a more than capable green-thumb. He agreed to begin the project together.
We started by setting up a potting table and together we made about 17 hanging baskets. Next, we cleared the garden beds, turning one into a geranium garden and the other into a cottage garden. I then suggested we trial a raised garden bed as a veggie patch. It was a hit with Vince; he loved it so much that we built another two. Then when I found some useful bits and pieces for fishing in his shed, we decided to create a feature wall in the garden, and incorporated his love for fishing into the wall’s theme.
A changed man and a blossomed friendship
Now, Vince is the proud owner of a ‘mini market garden’ (as he calls it) and can’t wait for his produce to ripen, so he can give it away to his family and friends.
"I want to thank my darling Tracy from Silver Chain for all her hard work helping me make a beautiful garden. I soon am going to have a mini market garden and I will be able to give lots of vegetables away to my friends and family. I love my new garden so much."
When we began this project, it was all about how I could help Vince find some meaning and relieve some boredom, but as a bi product, we have developed a great friendship. The project has also allowed me to use my creativity and ideas at work, which I love to do. Seeing the outcome has been a wonderful process and one of the main reasons why I love my job.
So where to from here? I’ve told Vince not to get too complacent, as I’m already eyeing off the next garden bed we can start on! And judging by the twinkle in his eye, I know he’s as excited about it as I am.