Residents and staff at Chartwell Chatsworth Retirement Residence in Kelowna, have developed a bit of a green thumb.
Dating as far back as 10 years ago—when the senior living community first opened—the community gardening program made a lasting impression on residents, and now, the surrounding community. The residence recently started donating produce to the local Kelowna Community Food Bank, and residents of both the senior living community and the town couldn’t be happier.
Benefits for all
Just like the seeds they planted, the popularity of the garden program grew over time. Many residents now love being able to have some therapeutic time pulling up weeds and planting vegetable and flower seeds. And if they aren’t able to garden, they simply enjoy overseeing it and offering their own advice.
“We have always had great interest from many of our residents when it comes to our community garden,” says Sarah Hemmett, life enrichment coordinator at the retirement community.
“It is a good way for our residents to get in daily exercise and fresh air. They love seeing the fruits of their labour.”
“All of the produce that’s gathered is used,” Hemmett says.
With six ground level plots and six raised beds, some residents have their own gardens to tend, while others prefer to share it with others.
All of the produce that’s shared is much appreciated. Many of the residents make jam from the fruit, and they often soak and steam corn in their microwaves.
Additionally, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and beets are often provided to the food service team and added to daily menus.
Gardening for a cause
Chartwell Chatsworth’s gardening program started as a way for residents to get in some physical activity while also providing a source of fresh produce for a well-balanced diet.
This year, the excess is not only used for meals at the residence, but a portion of it is set aside for the local food bank. Each week, a food bank volunteer meets the residence’s community gardeners to help pick and fill a large container full of fresh vegetables and fruits.
“Gardening is a wonderful activity for residents because it’s great exercise and makes them feel fulfilled, as they are contributing not only to the residence, but also to our outside community,” says Hemmett.
Since the initiative has become charitable, it’s gathered even more of a following. Residents are extremely supportive of the idea that their efforts are satisfying a need in the local community.
“The residents feel even more enthusiastic about helping others, especially when our food bank representative came to tell us they are now teaching young mothers who are recipients of the food bank how to can fruits and vegetables,” says Hemmett.
“They’re learning how to start building a supply of healthy foods.”
Some of the residents noted that they’re happy with the decision to donate produce to young mothers for canning purposes because that’s what they used to do for their own families.
It’s this devotion to their community that makes the residents at Chartwell Chatsworth so selfless and appreciative of the gardening program.