Disabled people will feel physically and psychologically better if they do some gardening, according to a national charity.
Thrive promotes gardening for disabled and elderly people and has set up a sensory and accessible garden at Naidex 2004, a disability exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham.
“Research shows that people recover faster from operations and use fewer painkillers if their recovery ward looks out onto a garden rather than concrete walls,” Thrive’s Tim Spurgeon told BBC News Online.
But for many disabled and elderly people maintaining a garden can be physically too demanding, and can lead to stress especially when physical degeneration means gardening has become a burden.
Thrive says that with some careful planning most people can take part in some sort of gardening.
“We have worked with people who only have head movement and who use garden tools with their mouths,” said Mr Spurgeon.
“We have people who are deafblind and wheelchair users – anyone can have a go at some form of gardening, even if it’s pot plants grown at home.”
The sensory and accessible garden at Naidex has features like aromatic and tactile plants, wind chimes, raised flowerbeds which can be maintained without bending, and vivid red and orange plants which are apparently the last colours that people see when they lose their sight.
Also on display is a range of garden tools which make tasks easier.
For example, the Nucan is a watering device which gives the user much greater control by having a button to start and stop waterflow.
And Fistgrip garden tools put the handle at 90 degrees to the fork, trowel or hoe, which makes them easier to use by people with weak joints or arthritis.
“Gardening is a very natural thing,” said Tim Spurgeon.
“People have been gardening in one form or another since we stopped being hunter-gatherers.”
“Some people say that it’s in our genes – there may even be a ‘green’ gene that disposes us towards the open environment.”
Thrive currently supports around a thousand therapeutic horticultural projects around the UK.’
BBC News Online disability affairs reporter. Friday, 14 May, 2004