Outdoor Gardening Breathes New Life into Rec Therapy Program

Published On: July 6, 2023

Patients in the Continuing Care Centre at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) have taken their recreation therapy activities outdoors, thanks to support from local donors.

The outdoor courtyard, which has been a source of calm and relaxation for many patients, now includes raised garden beds with improved accessibility, sun umbrellas, an enhanced fish pond, and a variety of gardening tools.

“Patients love to sit by the pond but have been limited on how much time could be spent outdoors due to a lack of shade,” explains Karen Stone, Manager of Health Disciplines at STEGH. “The new shade umbrellas and hand held gardening tools mean patients are able to spend more time participating in gardening activities, such as planting and upkeep. We find that gardening can help with dexterity and mobility, as well as work on rebuilding strength and endurance in our patient population.”

Gardening has also been shown to improve physical functioning, mood, and quality of life, and the group atmosphere improves and increases social interaction – all important factors for patients who sometimes spend a great deal of time in the Continuing Care Centre.

This summer, patients will try their hand at growing vegetables, which will be harvested to make marinara sauce for them to enjoy. “It’s our hope that giving our patients the opportunity to grow their own nutritious vegetables while they are at STEGH, will provide them with a sense of accomplishment and independence,” says Stone.

According to studies, gardening and spending time in nature can reduce depression, lower pain thresholds, reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention, lessen agitation, and potentially lower the need for certain kinds of medication.

Thank you to the STEGH Foundation and the generosity of local donors who made this initiative possible.