Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 15 - 2004


Horticultural Therapy for Institutionalized Older Adults and Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease
and Other Dementias: A Study and Practice

Caryl Gormly Gurski, MS, OTR

When exploring new program options, The Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens chose to develop horticultural therapy as a new outreach program specifically to serve institutionalized older adults and persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The program was designed as a client-centered clinical model for small psychosocial groups in seven pilot sites. Clinical assessments and personalized goals were developed for each client to facilitate successful participation in meaningful plant and plant related activities. A research study was conducted concurrently for eighteen months and demonstrated efficacy and efficiency of this program model and the power of plant related activities for older institutionalized adults and persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Horticultural Therapy in a Mental Health Day Program
Janet Szofran, BSN, HTR & Susan Meyer, DSN

As early as the 1800s horticultural therapy was been used with psychiatric patients as a stress reduction technique. One Alabama community began a collaborative project between the county botanical garden and the county mental health center to implement a horticultural therapy program to reduce stress in a small group of clients attending intensive day treatment at the mental health center. Participation in the horticultural therapy sessions resulted in therapists reporting, and all clients themselves confirming, a sense of accomplishment and enhanced self-esteem and improved participation in other aspects of treatment.

Horticultural Therapy in a Classroom for Learning Disabled Children
Bella S. Schimmel, M.D., Ph.D., HTR

Horticultural therapy uses living plants, their products, and the natural environment to provide evaluation, therapy, and rehabilitation within a medical model. It is recommended for people who have emotional, physical, educational, and/or behavioral problems. As therapists we seek appropriate settings in which to provide our skills. Obvious places to find children and adolescents who need help are in residential settings, specialized day programs, after school programs, clinics, probation department camps, and schools.

Factors Affecting Choice of Horticultural Therapy at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine
Bracha Orr, Richard Mattson, Ph.D., Nancy Chambers, and Matthew Wichrowski

This study was conducted at the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City. It examines factors influencing patient decisions to participate in a horticultural therapy program. Subjects were inpatients, aged 32 to 89. Seventy patients were interviewed: 48 chose to participate in the program; 22 declined. Patients described previous experiences with plants and gardening, attitudes towards plants, and the extent to which they understood the program’s benefits. The Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Questionnaire measured patients’ health beliefs. Five variables significantly predicted the tendency to take part in horticultural therapy: (1) understanding horticultural therapy as part of the rehabilitation process; (2) positive attitudes toward plants; (3) low internal multidimensional health locus of control; (4) birthplace; and (5) age at first gardening experience. Ninety-six percent of individuals with head injuries, stroke, or nervous system damage were interested in the horticultural therapy program, whereas 49% of patients with orthopaedic problems (i.e. hip or knee replacement) chose to participate.

Therapeutic Horticulture for People Living with Cancer: The Healing Gardens Program at Cancer Lifeline in Seattle
Sheila B. Taft, HTR

It is a rare individual who will not encounter cancer either personally or in a family member or friend. Those living with cancer and their caregivers may need or want support beyond the medical setting. Stress, fatigue, and fear may accompany the physical and emotional changes during and after diagnoses and treatment. In a quiet Seattle neighborhood there is a small attractive building that houses a non-profit organization called Cancer Lifeline. It has supported Washington residents since 1973 and now serves over 10,000 people annually. In 1999 the organization moved to its current location and the following year made the decision to build healing gardens on its three upper balcony spaces. Cancer Lifeline also chose to offer programs and classes that would keep the clients connected to nature. The philosophy that guides the Healing Arts Program at Cancer Lifeline is the belief that exploring one’s creativity can help in the healing process. It is that belief that guides the class offerings facilitated by a part-time horticultural therapist as well as the knowledge that active connection to plants and gardens can have a profound effect on quality of life.