Story by Abby Warren
"There's a homey atmosphere," observes Strayer Thoma, Garden Coordinator at Elite Care Oatfield Estates. "The gardens give residents a sense of belonging and purpose."
In her article, Senior Living: Desire to garden doesn't dim with age, Connie Robertson, Special Writer for the Oregonian, visits with residents at Rose Villa Senior Living and Elite Care Oatfield Estates as they work in community gardens that characterize the two campuses.
At Elite Care Oatfield Estates, an assisted living and memory care community in Milwaukie, a one-acre communal organic garden brings a harvest to residents nearly year round. Each Tuesday afternoon chefs and residents choose fresh produce, from lettuce to tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and carrots, to be used in meals for the week.
"The gardens are very integrated into the lives of the people who live here," says Strayer Thoma. "The big focus is on nutrition and how it trickles down to our well-being and quality of life."
When it comes time for the local county fair, residents enter the fruit, vegetables and flowers grown in their garden into different contests. Thoma says that typically 80 to 90 percent win ribbons! As the growing season winds down, crops are allowed to go to seed. The seeds are then packaged and donated to different nonprofits including the Oregon Food Bank's Learning Garden, The Oregon Tilth Organic Demonstration Gardens, and Growing Gardens.
At Rose Villa, 50 or so residents grow berries, vegetables, and flowers in individual plots. "There's so much camaraderie," says Charlotte Robinson a Rose Villa resident who will turn 88 this July, "everyone helping everyone." On Tuesdays, gardeners take part in a weekly Farmers Market where they share their bounty with chefs and residents alike.
Along with offering healthy activities and foods for residents, the garden also gives people a place to sit, relax and enjoy. Many residents enjoy a stroll through, have a seat on a bench and take in the sights and sounds of the garden and the Willamette river passing by below.
The garden also offers residents a way to continue to give back to their community. Students at a local elementary school's after-school program are invited to help in the garden, learn where food comes from, and understand how to be good stewards of the land.
Read more in The Oregonian
Connie Potter, Special Writer
Photo credit to John M. Vincent/ The Oregonian