"It was a lovely surprise to look out of my window and see something bright and beautiful."

Residents at Downing House, a residential care home in Withington, were delighted to welcome a group of volunteers from pharmaceutical research and development company, AbbVie, to create a sensory garden in the house’s grounds. The seven-strong AbbVie team visited as part of the company’s employee volunteering programme, with home’s Activities Coordinator, Rubina Hewitt, organising the tasks and supporting them on the day. 

Downing House, managed by The Abbeyfield Society, has large landscaped grounds that often provide the perfect location for outdoor activities and summer parties, but the 25 residents are not able to make use of the whole space. 

Rubina explains, “A part of our grounds was sadly neglected and served no real purpose, so the AbbVie volunteering day provided the perfect opportunity to give it a new lease of life. We chose to create a colourful, vibrant sensory garden in order to give our residents, many of whom are living with dementia, an outside space on their doorstep that stimulates their senses. 

“Being outdoors and engaging with nature is proven to improve cognitive function and lessen the effects of degenerative diseases such as dementia. We hope that the good weather lasts so that our residents can fully immerse themselves in and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of their new garden.” 

In addition to the sensory garden, the volunteers also painted some beautiful artwork on the walls of the grounds. 

Resident Norma Rosson, whose room overlooks one of the murals, said:

“I never used to have much of a view from my bedroom, so it was a lovely surprise to look out of my window and suddenly see something bright and beautiful!” 

AbbVie – whose volunteers also repainted benches, built raised beds and planted new flowers – generously reimbursed Abbeyfield for the cost of the materials needed to complete the work. 

The volunteers’ work was greatly appreciated, and they also took the time to talk to some of the residents who took an interest in the transformation happening around them and to join them in an arts and crafts activity. 

One resident, Bernard Mole, said:

“The volunteers were very nice people and it was lovely to see them giving up their free time to help others.” 

Rooms available at Downing House

We have three single ensuite rooms and one non-ensuite room available to rent. For further information or to arrange a visit, please contact us.

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