Milligan, Christine and Gatrell, Anthony and Bingley, Amanda (2004) 'Cultivating health' : therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England. Social Science and Medicine, 58 (9). pp. 1781-1793. ISSN 0277-9536
While gardening is seen, essentially, as a leisure activity it has also been suggested that the cultivation of a garden plot offers a simple way of harnessing the healing power of nature (The therapeutic garden, Bantam Press, London, 2000). One implication of this is that gardens and gardening activity may offer a key site of comfort and a vital opportunity for an individual's emotional, physical and spiritual renewal. Understanding the extent to which this supposition may be grounded in evidence underpins this paper. In particular, we examine how communal gardening activity on allotments might contribute to the maintenance of health and well being amongst older people. Drawing on recently completed research in northern England, we examine firstly the importance of the wider landscape and the domestic garden in the lives of older people. We then turn our attention to gardening activity on allotments. Based on the findings of our study, we illustrate the sense of achievement, satisfaction and aesthetic pleasure that older people can gain from their gardening activity. However, while older people continue to enjoy the pursuit of gardening, the physical shortcomings attached to the aging process means they may increasingly require support to do so. Communal gardening on allotment sites, we maintain, creates inclusionary spaces in which older people benefit from gardening activity in a mutually supportive environment that combats social isolation and contributes to the development of their social networks. By enhancing the quality of life and emotional well being of older people, we maintain that communal gardening sites offer one practical way in which it may be possible to develop a â��therapeutic landscapeâ��.
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