Nature Improving Human Health
Horticulture has been used as therapy for centuries. In 1798, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that gardening improved the conditions of mentally ill patients.
Gardening as a means of physical and occupational rehabilitation was employed in U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals for returning World War II veterans. The idea of using nature to improve human health and well-being gained credibility through research in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The American Horticultural Therapy Association cites the following benefits of horticultural therapy:
- Enhance self-esteem
- Alleviate depression
- Improve motor skills
- Provide problem-solving opportunities
- Encourage work adjustment
- Support social interaction
Many long term care communities use gardening and horticulture therapy to help residents become re-involved with life. At United Methodist Communities at Pitman, residents enjoy monthly classes taught by Beverly Agard, a registered horticultural therapist. Sometimes, as a bonus, residents can sample the fruits or vegetables of their labors.
While people of all ages and abilities can profit from simply viewing and growing plants, the advantages of people-plant interactions can be focused and enhanced with guidance from a horticultural therapist. Adaptive tools and therapeutic gardens often lend an even greater degree of accessibility and long lasting benefit.