Singapore

Nursing home's therapeutic garden a boon for residents

At the rooftop garden of the NTUC Health nursing home in Jurong West, residents can brush their hands against textured and coloured plants, smell them and even eat some of them.

To the uninitiated, this may look like any other garden.

It is, however, the first garden in a nursing home here developed as a therapeutic garden, in consultation with the National Parks Board (NParks).

Such gardens are designed, using science-based principles, to facilitate interactions with nature in a way that may improve the mental and psychosocial well-being of visitors and residents.

Last year, NParks released a guide on the design of therapeutic landscapes, particularly for the elderly and people with dementia. These design guidelines include the type of plants to be used in a therapeutic garden, its amenities and layout as well as its signage.

The NTUC Health nursing home, for instance, uses a trellis to act as a destination point so residents can easily find their way. It also doubles up as a shaded area as residents living with dementia may not recognise that they are feeling warm while in the garden.

The natural bamboo musical instruments installed among the plants are aimed at stimulating residents' sense of hearing and improving their motor and coordination skills as they create music in the garden.

NTUC Health's principal occupational therapist Benjamin Lim said residents at the home participate in therapeutic activities, such as scent bag making or plant propagation.

Those who have taken part in such sessions have improved their motor, sensory and cognitive perceptual skills, said Mr Lim.

Resident Tan Soo Siam, 72, enjoys the social aspect of communal gardening.

Said Mr Tan: "I hang around with friends here, and it is much better out here than in the room." - JANICE TAI

MEDICAL & HEALTH