Gardening Program has Aged Care Residents Growing their Dinner

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Gardening program in aged care
A gardening project has aged care residents growing veggies and planning meals. Photo: Lifeview Aged Care

A gardening program in Lifeview aged care homes has residents cultivating veggies and planning their own menus.

For around a year, residents have collaborated with staff chefs and gardeners to plan seasonal menus and grow produce. The program, called ‘Planting with a Purpose’, involves residents in the whole process from germination to harvesting.

Stephen Milsted, Hospitality Services Manager at Lifeview, said he started the program to give residents a chance to grow their own food.

“I always enjoyed growing my own vegetables and garden,” he said.

“And being a chef for a long time, I know how nice it is to just go and pick your own stuff. So I thought, well why won’t that work in an aged care home?”

Once “a bit hit and miss”, Lifeview’s gardens now feature raised garden beds with wheels and covers for year-round gardening. Mr Milsted said residents get involved as much or as little as they choose.

Jim’s keen to pick veggies from the garden for dinner.

“We knew we had a lot of gardening enthusiasts amongst the resident group, as the green thumb groups were always a popular activity, but this program has seen more and more residents wanting to be involved as much as they can.

“Obviously, they’re up and down with health but we certainly got three or four in each of the homes that are really keen. Some just like to go out and just sit in the garden. Some of them like to actually get their hands dirty.

“There’s one guy in one home whose name is Jim and we’ll go “Jim, we need some carrots!” “Righto!” off he goes, comes back with a big bowl of carrots, corn, lettuce, beetroot.”

Residents should be more involved in their own meals, says Maggie Beer

On Wednesday the Maggie Beer Foundation flagged aged care nutrition as an “urgent” issue in a report for the Department of Health. The report recommends involving residents more in meal creation, which Ms Beer highlighted in a press release.

“Focusing on food and appetite and, in doing so, good nutrition, stimulates the senses, supports health and wellbeing, provides pleasure, conveys respect and care and acts as a facilitator for social interaction,” said Ms Beer.

“It provides a sense of purpose and anticipation. It is at the heart of quality of life.”

Mr Milsted said Lifeview’s gardening program often results in home-grown meals for all the residents.

“It doesn’t cover our whole menu, but it does give us produce that can cover a whole meal,” he said. “So at the moment tomatoes are coming in. And beetroot squash, zucchini, lettuce. We might want to do a salad with some of the cherry tomatoes that we had.

“We roasted some zucchini and squash recently and the residents loved it because they know that it came from the garden.

“Seeing the smiles on the faces of the residents when they bring the produce to the kitchen or as they sit down to share a meal, which they had a hand in creating, really makes your day.”

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