10 Reasons to Consider an Intergenerational (IG) Gardening Program

Intergenerational Gardening - Sunshine Care Assisted Living Community of Memory Care Homes

1. Kids learn where food comes from–the entire seed to table process: sowing seeds, watering, transplanting, weeding and care, harvesting and sharing a meal. No longer will you hear kids say that food comes from the grocery store! (Or worse a restaurant or drive-through window!)

2. Older Adults enjoy being teachers. They have long-term knowledge about gardening. In the 75+ segment many grew-up on small farms or their families grew veggies and raised chickens to help ends meet during the 1930’s. In the 1940’s they learned all about Victory Gardens to support the war effort.  IG Garden Club is great for older adults with mild cognitive impairment as well. You are tapping into their long term memories while helping kids. It’s a win-win! 

3. Everyone loves to eat what they grow themselves!! Kids will try veggies you never dreamed of them eating if they had a hand in growing them. You can  taste-test your crops together on harvest days and send kids home with a sample and a nutritious recipe.

4. Parents love it and they represent another generation in the mix. Be sure to develop your program so that parents stay and participate. Especially if you are building this program in Assisted Living. This is an important safety issue. The older adults are not free baby-sitters and neither are you.  You need parents to manage their own children and encourage their kids to participate. Also, they provide a vital conversation for the older adults. They bond over the beautiful children gardening and memories. If you keep parents engaged and learning with their kid, they will keep coming back!

6. Fresh air and sunshine Seriously, get outside! Health and Human Service Agencies recommend a minimum of one hour a day of outdoor play. This doesn’t have to be on the soccer field. It can be puttering around the garden.

7. Be in service to others Consider if your garden can be a Food Bank Garden, where you donate the produce to a local food bank or shelter program. Add a row of cut flowers to your garden so you can make floral arrangements one day and give them to the older adults in your program.

8. You can fail with a crop and still succeed with the program! Things gone wrong in the garden are learning opportunities. Investigate, make the kids do some research on why a plant died– Too much/too little water? Not enough sunlight? A bad bug attack? Rabbits, Gophers and Birds? Not enough nutrients in your soil? Are you trying to grow something in the wrong growing season? Whatever the case, simple solutions can be found and you can all try again. Life is messy like that and nature will improvise!

9. Celebrate! This is your outdoor classroom. Have fun! In addition to seeding, watering, harvesting, etc. there are so many games and projects to do in the garden. It’s nice when you can work in small groups or IG pairs (A Kid and Older Adult Buddy).  A scavenger hunt, discuss colors, talk nutrition, go bird-watching, build a worm bin, release lady bugs, make vegetable puppets, make Raw Food recipes (no stove or oven required).

10. It doesn’t have to take place in a  garden. An IG Gardening program can happen with container gardening. It can be at picnic tables on the patio with lesson plans. You could do a simple herb garden that attendees set in their kitchen window. The purpose is learning and playing together! To create warm interactions and let seniors help kids learn the full seed to table process. You could even call it an IG Nature Program if you live in an area where gardens only flourish a few months of the year.

If you have questions on how to structure garden club inquire ask us about out our FREE monthly Garden Club for Kids. Feel free to leave them in the comments or e-mail Farmer Roy at Roy@SunshineCare.com.

Sunshine Care’s IG Garden Club has been featured on KPBS “A Growing Passion”! 

Have questions about long-term care planning for a family member or friend with dementia or Alzheimer’s? That is exactly what our free monthly support group is for! Our Caring Connection Support Group allows family members of those with dementia to ask questions, get answers, and receive support from others who are tackling the same challenges. Stop by our next meeting!

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