Northfield Court, a sheltered housing scheme for older people in Taunton, celebrated the Coronation of King Charles III on Saturday 6th May with the opening of a new section of its garden.

Sam Corrie, who is the Sheltered Housing Manager at Northfield Court, oversaw the rebuilding of the garden over recent months, supported by a number of volunteers from the Inner Wheel Club of Taunton. She says, “The residents loved the old garden, but there were limitations on how much they could get involved with maintaining it. Many of the plants were at a low level, which was unreachable for most of them, and there were few other outdoor activities that we could offer.

“Physical activity, especially outdoors, is proven to have positive benefits for older people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so it was a key aim this year to make the garden more accessible and more of a space that residents could choose to work, relax or play games.

“We made a successful application to the Somerset Activity & Sports Partnership (SASP) and Somerset Council’s Extra Care Housing Fund, which supports housing services for older people around the county. We then used the funding to install raised flowerbeds and buy some gardening tools, which create greater opportunities for the residents to participate more in gardening activities tending to the plants and flowers. We also bought some outdoor games such as skittles and boules for them to enjoy.”

Resident Margaret Pearce, who is visually impaired, officially opened the new section of the garden as part of Northfield Court’s Coronation celebrations, joined by her fellow residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends. One of the benefits of the garden is that it stimulates the senses of hearing, smell and touch, as well as sight.

Sam continued, “We have a diverse group of people living here, so I try to accommodate everyone’s needs, understanding that everyone has different abilities and preferences. The new garden helps to do this and the raised flowerbeds offer a welcome activity for everyone to join in with, especially for those that do not wish to step out for activities.  Gardening is a therapeutic activity, giving many of our residents a sense of achievement and enjoyment.”

Another resident commented, “Until now, I had no idea how much joy a garden could bring. We all now have a lovely hideaway where we can unwind and watch our plants flourish. It's nice to have an opportunity that we never had before, and we are so grateful for this funding. Getting outdoors keeps us active with a smile on our faces, and we are lucky we have some great volunteers who were able to help put this together too!”

The house is going further to offer more opportunities for their residents, many of whom have limited mobility, to stay active and physically fit. The funding application also provided the means to train three staff members to deliver Flexercise sessions, and to purchase a SMART TV so that resident can follow YouTube classes (and also get full enjoyment out of their monthly film club).

Lauren Dyer, Active Ageing Project Officer at SASP, visited Northfield Court in April to see the new installations. She said, “I was blown away by the lovely garden transformation, and the new raised beds, plants and flowers all looked wonderful. The residents were all very appreciative of the funding and all had stories to tell about the new garden.”

Lauren continued, “Northfield Court is a perfect fit for the Extra Care Housing Fund, which is designed to support residents to improve their mobility, strength and confidence. In this instance, it compliments Abbeyfield’s mission to reduce the effects of loneliness and isolation amongst older people by enabling them to stay active and engage socially over the new garden games and in shared gardening projects.”

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