Ridgecrest Senior Housing is nestled on 5 acres of property in Ridgewood, NJ. During a survey in early 2019, many of our residents expressed that they often go days and weeks without going outside. While this is understandable in the cold weather months, it was quite surprising to uncover that this was a year round issue for so many. Residents often do not have any place to go unless they’re going to a medical appointment, food shopping or religious services. Additionally many residents felt that our outdoor garden areas are not inviting as they are overgrown and offer limited seating. In the spring of 2019 we began the first phase of rehabbing our garden areas and increasing our outdoor seating capacity to create safe and enjoyable “Gardens of HOPE - Happy Outdoor Places to Enjoy” for our 150+ residents. We solicited ideas and suggestions from our residents, community partners and volunteers. We are working with landscape designers and master gardeners on the best ways to enhance our outdoor areas and maximize our outdoor space. Local Scouts are working on enhancing our flagpole areas as well.
Our residents are at an increased health risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been in their apartments since early March, with little to no social interactions. Out of an abundance of precaution, all of our regularly scheduled indoor activities and special events have been cancelled indefinitely. The rehabbing of our outdoor garden areas will provide our residents with safe areas to relax comfortably and be in the fresh air. Now more important than ever, our Gardens of HOPE will allow our residents to safely socialize while maintaining proper physical distancing.
Ridgecrest only has nine outdoor benches on our entire property. With over 150 residents this presents a dilemma for those that are looking to spend time outdoors. As part of our Gardens of HOPE Project, we are looking to significantly increase our outdoor seating capacity to accommodate as many residents as possible. The purchase and installation of each new bench has a cost of $2,000.
Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
Few pastimes can restore the body and soul like spending time in nature. Research has confirmed that being outside does more than just lift your spirits; it also provides a boost for your physical and mental well-being. Those that spend time outdoors, especially older adults, experience less depression and anxiety. Older adults who are unable to exercise can benefit from getting outdoors by enjoying the change of scenery, smelling freshly cut grass and seeing beautiful, natural vistas. Experts advise that older adults should try to spend time in natural garden areas on a regular basis. The relaxation that nature provides can improve mood and increase overall feelings of happiness.
Being outside in nature makes you feel more alive and provides a greater sense of energy and vitality, which can help make you more resilient to illness. Spending time outdoors may also boost memory. Being outside can help increase levels of Vitamin D, which often is low among older adults. Spending just 15 minutes outside in the sunshine each day, can help you to receive the recommended dose of Vitamin D.
As our Gardens of HOPE are created, we will be adding new outdoor social activities such as meditation, yoga, live music events, and bird watching. For our residents that would like to increase their physical activity we will be starting new walking and gardening groups.
The pictures below show the before and after changes that were done during the 2019 rehabbing of our Courtyard Gardens. An area that once was empty became a space where many activities and parties were held in the spring, summer and early fall months.