For people living with disabilities, sensory gardens have been proven to have immense benefits for the wellbeing and physical health.
Sensory gardens have been proven to have a lot of benefits to people who are suffering from Spinal Cord Injuries, Huntington’s Chorea and Acquired Brain Injury among other ailments. At Treloar School and College, for example, sensory gardens help the students feel more at home in their environment.
BENEFITS OF SENSORY GARDENS
1. STIMULATION OF SENSES
Going by the name ‘sensory garden’, you are correct to assume that one of the prime benefits offered by this type of garden is the stimulation of senses. Sensory stimulation means the activation of more than one senses in the body. Since most of the clients that we deal with experience decreased loss or use of certain senses in the body, the use of sensory gardens can allow persons to access nature, sunlight and unique sensory inputs. This can enhance the levels of sensation and dull hypersensitivity to limbs that have been affected.
2. INCREASING THE LEVEL OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN USERS
The performance of physical activities can be promoted by gardening, walking, moving for short distances as well as simply sitting and standing. For persons who have acquired brain injuries, disabilities and degenerative diseases (and even healthy people), physical activities have a lot of health benefits. Some of the benefits that come from increased physical activities include lower symptoms of depression, improvement in the carrying out of physical tasks, better fitness in the cardio-respiratory system and enhanced muscle strength. A sensory garden also offers users an outdoor space to carry out therapy activities alongside other spaces such as the pool or gym.
3. A SENSE OF COMMUNION WITH OTHERS AND INCREASED PARTICIPATION IN ACTIVITIES
When working in a team with others in order to create something great, you are highly likely to feel something special. While working in a sensory garden alone has a lot of benefits, working together in a group usually has the ability to increase the desire of a person to participate in activities. Further, it can also create a sense of community with others who are ailing and the wider community.
4. MINIMISING AGGRESSION AND AGITATION
In a sensory garden, the main tasks of gardening carried out can lead to a reduction in the negative behaviours of users while simultaneously providing an engagement of the senses that lead to agitation.
The main act of gardening has been widely studied and proven to reduce aggression and agitation. As such, adjacent to the main sensory garden, there will be a sensory modulation area. This sensory modulation area will be provided to people who are prone to aggressive behaviour or uncontrolled outbursts. It is ideal for persons who require fresh air to blow off some steam. This modulation area will include a shade for the summer period and a bench-press that is weather-proof to help users of this facility to relieve tension.
5. OFFERING USERS PHYSICAL AND COGNITIVE CHALLENGES
Within and around the precincts of the sensory garden, there will be a number of physical and cognitive challenges to keep the user busy. The challenges in the garden can be used to challenge the balance of a person in a safe environment, improve motor activity of an individual and increase purposeful movement. Further, they can be used to provide and improve cognitive stimulation through proper planning and executive functioning.
6. PROVIDING AN AVENUE FOR STRESS RELEASE, REFLECTION AND MEDITATION
For wholesome healing, one should be able to heal physically, spiritually and emotionally. Sensory gardens are designed to help users get all these benefits. Within the garden, a recovering individual usually gets a private space in which they can reflect, meditate and carry out family discussions. To get the calming sensations necessary for this to occur, users can take advantage of elements such as smells of flowers, water features, natural sounds and music present in the garden. The relaxation of a patient usually translates to physical benefits for the user such as low blood pressure.
7. MAKING THE USER FEEL THEY ARE GAINING PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Sensory gardens are considered to be highly beneficial as they also users the feeling of accomplishing something; in completing various gardening tasks and other activities in the garden, users tend to feel a sense of accomplishment. The growing of plants or edible flora as well as rearing of living organisms can help a person gain new interests and increase the level of happiness in a person. A sensory garden also usually provides a person with a meaningful occupation and motivates their performance in different ventures. This is usually known as PERMA positive psychology.
8. THEY DECREASE FATIGUE AND INCREASE THE CLARITY OF MENTAL FACULTIES
There are a lot of many benefits that can be attributed to sensory gardens. However, the last benefit that we will mention is the fact that these gardens have been proven to lower the levels of fatigue in users and improve their level of mental clarity. This can be attributed to the high levels of fresh air that users of a sensory garden get. For example, the sense of smell uses memories that one has stored in their brain to increase neural activity.