Growing Together - Gardening Project Evaluation 2009

It is known that gardening is good for body and mind (Bucksch 2005) but little is documented on how to introduce it to a complex social setting. This project aimed to evaluate the introduction of this health promoting activity to a managed social housing scheme for older people.

Project Aims

This project aimed to tackle disadvantage in older people in a managed social housing residence in the developing Seaside area of Eastbourne by promoting a sustainable gardening project, initially in this residence, for both men and women. There is huge potential to develop this beyond one residence – Eastbourne Homes alone have 5 further residences. The School of Health professions is based in the affluent area of Meads, so developing a profile in lower income areas is desirable.

The project leader aimed to foster ‘mutual benefit’ through developing a community gardening partnership between the University of Brighton School Health Professions, residents and management of Eastbourne Homes, and Regional Age Concern.

This project built on the lessons learned from the CUPP funded ‘Gardening and older People project’ which aimed to establish a community gardening partnership. During the implementation of this project it became clear that an additional factor that needed to be considered was the actual introduction of the gardening as a sustainable activity.

This project directly enhanced teaching and learning, with the experiences and findings being shared with occupational therapy students, and graduate programme participants. It is essential as developing health professionals they view research as an essential part of their role. Both Eastbourne Homes and Age Concern are considering this a ‘pilot’ site. More gardening projects should follow. The project has great potential for growth, and there are opportunities that students could facilitate and research future groups. There is a great deal of ‘gardening’ research interest within the university, and opportunities for further research on a larger scale can be nurtured.

The immediate outcome of the project was the introduction of gardening, as a health promoting activity, to this residence. The people involved continued to garden independently, for a further 5 years until their garden was re-allocated in a restructuring of the sheltered housing. It changed the way they saw themselves and what they could do in the space, and they went on to do more fun things, like taking holidays, and other leisure outside of the sheltered housing.

This project merged into the Darley Road Gardening Project (CUPP seed funding, with Harvey Ells) and also became the basis for Tania Wiseman's PhD. Tania also wrote a book chapter titled 'Gardening: An Occupation for Recovery and Wellness' which was based on both the Growing Together and Darley Road Gardening Projects for the 2nd edition of the International Handbook of Occupational Therapy Interventions.

University of Brighton Staff can access Tania's book chapter via this link

If you are not a member of university staff, but would like to view the article for scholarly purposes, please email Tania directly and she will share it with you.

Project partners

The project partners are University of Brighton School of Health Professions who are providing expertise, residents and management of Eastbourne Homes who are providing space, and Regional Age Concern who are funding materials.

Project lead

Tania Jane Wiseman University of Brighton Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy School of Health Professions