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Garden with your Elders!

2011 October 3

By Leon Latino

One of my oldest gardening memories is picking Japanese peapods for my grandfather, a 2nd generation Italian-American who moved the family from Worcester, MA to rural East Brookfield, where he had room to plant massive gardens. Though I did not really enjoy picking peas or watering cucumbers at the time, I now find gardening to be one of my favorite outdoor activities.

As part of the Environmental Careers Program at EPA, I was encouraged to join an “action learning team” along with other new employees. Building on our common interests in gardening, food security, and community-building, we decided to document examples of elder-accessible community gardens, gardening plots thoughtfully designed with elders in mind.  Most have raised beds that bring the gardening surface closer to waist height, to allow for easy use. These gardens represent a great opportunity to involve elders in community-building activities, while also providing low-impact exercise and improved access to fresh food.

My team looked for examples of elder-accessible gardens on former Brownfield sites. Can you imagine a blighted or underused parcel of urban land being redeveloped as a garden? How about a garden where elders can enjoy time outdoors in the shade while imparting gardening knowledge and cultural knowledge on younger generations? It is quite a transformative idea!

EPA’s “Urban Agriculture & Local, Sustainable Food Systems” website provides information that empowers both urban and rural gardeners to properly assess and mitigate potential contaminants in their soils. Their mantra is “test your soil first,” especially if you do not know the history of your gardening site.

The Brownfields “Urban Ag” website features my team’s new publication on elder-accessible gardens.
Here’s an example from Philadelphia, where gardens have become a place of cultural exchange for a diverse group of elder immigrants.

Do you know of other examples where gardens are “growing community” or revitalizing under-used sites? Share your stories below!

About the author: Leon Latino has been with EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management since 2009. He and his wife have modified their pavement-heavy urban environment with raised-bed and container gardens, plus a rain garden and rain barrels.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Mark Noonan permalink
    November 8, 2011

    In the summer of 2011, Elders in Action, a non-profit in Portland, Oregon serving older adults, kicked off a series of service-learning projects to address the growing problem of poverty and food insecurity among elders in Multnomah County. Volunteers from Elders in Action partnered with a local senior center and county agencies and planted a garden to grow fresh organic produce to be used in meals and food boxes at local senior centers.

    The site of the community garden is the front yard of “Bob”, an elder who loves to garden but is no longer physically able to do the intense work of urban farming. Bob is happy to provide local gardeners a place to utilize their skills while providing nutritious food alternatives to the elder population in Multnomah County. An important goal of Bob’s Garden is to promote intergenerational communities and to improve neighborhood socialization for older adults like Bob who want to live independently in their homes.

    Today, over six million seniors nationwide face the threat of hunger; they are starving. The number is quickly growing. In Oregon, recent studies regarding our older adult population have found that we are 29th in the nation with over 5% of our seniors experiencing hunger. Helping to end hunger among older adults is the first priority of Elders in Action. Elders in Action and community partners will continue tackle the issues surrounding food insecurity for older adults in the Portland metro area with several other future projects.

  2. permalink
    September 10, 2012

    Ten men banded together in love can do what ten thousand separately would fail in.

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