As we reflect on the year that is nearing completion and begin to look forward the new year just ahead, many people are moved to give gifts to those around them. These gifts represent gratitude and kinship. They give nod to our relationships, acknowledging the importance of those around us.
Help the older adults in your life give the gift of presence this holiday season. Create thoughtful, engaging activities for seniors that encourage socialization with one another and connection with your therapeutic garden. Maintaining social connections strengthens physical and mental health, which is especially important as we head into a season that is joyous for some, but can feel lonely or sad to others.
Two simple December activities:
Twig frames. Arrange a social outing where older adults each collect 12 thin, straight twigs approximately 9 to 12 inches long from your therapeutic garden. With three twigs on each side, create a square, with the twigs overlapping. The inside of the square will resemble a small photo frame with generous amounts of the ends of the twigs jutting out, away from the frame itself. Using a glue gun on the back side of the twigs, glue the twigs together. Use twine to wrap and knot the intersections of where the twigs overlap, both for additional support and for aesthetics. Lastly, encourage seniors to place a meaningful image inside the frame. Some may like to include a photo of a beloved family member, while others may prefer to include a printout of an inspirational quote. Use the glue gun once again to stick the chosen image to the frame itself. This project will also work with a smaller number of thicker twigs/branches. You could also glue a loop of twine to the top of the frame, so that the photo frame could be hung on a wall, instead of leaning against one.
Pine cone bird feeders. As one of the most popular recreational activities for retirees, the older adults who visit your therapeutic garden likely have friends who are either birdwatcher enthusiasts or who simply delight in colorful feathered friends visiting outside their window. Schedule a pine cone scavenger hunt of sorts, arranging for a specific time for seniors to visit the garden together to search for pine cones that could be turned into beautiful bird feeder gifts. Following the recipe below will create a gift that will continue to spark joy throughout the winter, as pops of colors from cardinals and other birds stop to visit their new food source.
Pine Cone Bird Feeder
- 1 cup suet
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup corn meal
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup wild birdseed
- Pine cones
- Wooden craft stick
- Waxed paper
- Heavy string
First, tie on a short length of sturdy cord around the top of the pine cone. Next, stir up a suet mixture. Suet is hard beef or mutton fat. (You can get it at the supermarket meat counter.) To mix the suet, you must first melt it. Cut it into small pieces, and heat it over low heat. As the fat melts, stir it until it’s mostly liquid. Strain the liquid into another container and allow it to cool a bit. Once the melted suet is cool to the touch, mix it with the other ingredients. Use a wooden craft stick to press the mixture into a pine cone. Once the suet-peanut butter mixture is on the cone, spread the birdseed out on waxed paper and roll the pine cone over them. They’ll stick to the outside and be easily accessible. Hang the feeder outdoors on a tree.
Both of the creative, natural gifts outlined above generate warm feelings both during the planning stage of the project, as well as long after the gift is given to its intended recipient. Shifting the focus of this season’s gifts from presents to presence will foster a sense of connection, goodwill and joy that will carry your residents’ hearts and minds into the new year.
Be sure to like us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest throughout 2017. We will be posting images of gardens and research on the importance of Therapeutic Gardens.