The Physical and Psychological Benefits of Horticulture Therapy with the Aged Horticultural therapy (HT), as defined by the American Horticultural Therapy Association, is “a process utilizing plants and horticultural activities to improve social, educational, psychological and physical adjustment of persons thus improving their body, mind, and spirit”. Although “Horticultural therapy” was introduced by Rhea McCandliss in 1967, using plants to ease discomfort can be traced back to Egyptians.Nowadays, with the further study of horticulture and the large usage of HT, HT has been proven effective in healing and maintaining health on many people. In this research paper, I will focus on the physical and psychological benefits of HT with the aged.
The aged as a disadvantaged group has received increasingly attention nowadays because of their specific characteristics – their physical, intellectual and social abilities are declining gradually. HT, as an alternative therapy, can solve all these problems to a certain degree.To begin with, HT can help the aged maintain physical health or relieve physical illnesses. To be more specific, according to the aged physical situations, horticulture therapists will design appropriate horticulture activities individually, from the basic activities like watering to hard physical labor like digging or mulching. All of the activities are aimed to help the elderly practice basic motor skills.
During the process of interacting with plants, the aged might believe that they are merely taking care plants.With this thought, they tend to be more active and relaxed during HT than other therapeutic activities. Consequentially, they will find gradual changes happen to their bodies. Besides, outdoor activities can help patients recover quickly, which has been proven in several hospitals with healing garden for horticulture therapeutic activities. Secondly, HT utilizes the plants’ unique features to improve emotional and mental health of the aged. Being in a garden with different species of trees and plants is a good method to relax and reduce pressure for all the people.However, besides tension and anxiety, due to living alone without their children for long time or retirement for years, the aged tend to feel lost, depressed and lonely. Their desperate need for care and concern is glaringly obvious.
Therefore, horticulture therapists usually organize group activities, which require the aged to open mind and communicate with others, thereby easing the negative feelings and satisfy the aged’s emotional needs. Additionally, plants need to be tended to carefully and continuously. Taking care of plants will give the aged sense of responsibility and make them feel needed.What’s more, plants have life cycles – sprouting, developing stems, blooming, reproducing. By witnessing the whole process during participation, the aged could arouse expectation of lives and a sense of achievement, which eventually help the aged to build “interest and enthusiasm for the future” (Olszowy 18). Thirdly, HT can stimulate the aged’s intelligence and sensory perception. Concretely speaking, plants’ life cycle is similar to human beings, which may cause the elderly’s sympathy.
And plants’ fragrance and shape can also make the aged recall to some specific moments of their past.What’s more, through participating in horticulture activities, the aged can acquire new knowledge, develop new skills, and strengthen their observation abilities. Furthermore, a new leave or bud might arouse the aged’s curiosities, and the aged could obtain confidence from such little success.
Last but not the least, horticulture therapeutic activities provide the elderly opportunities to go outside and socialize with people. Horticulture therapist usually put the aged with their peer in the same group so that they will not feel stress which caused by generation gaps.During group work, the elderly need to communicate and cooperate with their group members. Besides, the aged need to socialize with other people or institutions, such as plant supplier and garden club.
All of the interactions can promote their sociability and improve their social skills gradually. In sum, HT can improve physical, mental, emotional health and intellectual, sensory and social abilities. However, HT is a long-term treatment. The therapeutic activities may not be heavy but require patience and ongoing practice.Thus the aged should develop correct understanding and attitude to HT. Moreover, designing an effective horticulture therapeutic activity should based on the aged’s characteristics, personalities and physical or mental conditions. Inappropriate activities will damage their health, especially physical. Therefore, horticulture therapists play a significant and essential role in horticulture therapy.
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