In 2013, a study conducted by the CDC found that one in eight Americans over the age of 60 reported cognitive decline and memory loss. As that number continues to grow so does the vital need for programs to not only help fight memory loss but also improve the lives of seniors dealing with cognitive illness.
As a top provider of Memory Care, Aviva- A Campus for Senior Life, is no stranger to caring for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. While the diseases alone are difficult, seeing our community seniors lose their sense of purpose can sometimes be the most heartbreaking. However, with a strong support system and innovative ideas, we can give these seniors new opportunities to experience.
Innovation is the idea behind Aviva’s newest initiative. In February 2018, the community was the third Florida facility to welcome the ElderGrow program. Founded by Orla Concannon, ElderGrow is a dynamic approach to engaging seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s through the power of nature. The program centers on a mobile garden that houses 100 percent non-toxic and organic vegetation. Easy to maneuver, the garden comes equipped with its own UV light, irrigation system and ventilation that all mimic the effects of the great outdoors allowing the plants to flourish in their native habitat.
The garden is used as a tool to engage residents, stimulating all five senses. What do they smell, taste, see and feel? An important aspect of the program is not only to have residents touch and feel but also to empower them to care for this garden. Residents are asked to water the garden each day, check the health of the plants and let staff know when vegetables are ready for harvest.
Not only does this responsibility keep residents focused in the moment, it also pushes them to interact with one another. For residents who are truly burdened by their disease this might be the first task they have been able to focus on and the first time they feel present in years.
Since bringing the program to campus, Aviva has instituted bi-monthly classes for residents in their Anchin Memory Care community. Residents participating in these classes have experienced dramatic improvements in behavior, social interaction, mobility and overall health. Not only has Aviva seen improvements in residents but staff and volunteers have become attached to the little community garden using the task of caring for it as a moment of quiet and calm during a hectic day.