A garden of independence

Mercy Place Montrose residents Lyn Sykes, Shirley Van Veen and Dale Macalister enjoying the wheelchair friendly garden beds. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS. 390514_02

By Mikayla van Loon

The addition of wheelchair-friendly garden beds at an aged care home in Montrose has given residents back their independence.

After receiving a $7000 grant from the Andrews Foundation, Mercy Place sought to provide two garden beds designed specifically for residents using wheelchairs.

Lifestyle coordinator Dee Halligan said it took quite a bit of research to find the right planter boxes.

“It took me a long time to find them because the wooden ones aren’t waterproof. I’ve got nursery friends in Queensland and one of my friends had heard of these,” she said.

“They’re made in, I want to say, Germany and so we messaged the company and they told us who supplied them in Australia and they were in Sydney. So then we had them trucked down in a day because you couldn’t get them anywhere else.”

Well worth the effort, for resident Lyn Sykes who loved her garden before moving into Mercy Place, it brings comfort and conversation.

“I had a vegetable garden and that kept me going and it was terrific. It gave me something to do,” she said.

“I was growing potatoes and and because I’m a member of the RSL Ringwood, I was a volunteer, I used to pick potatoes and take them down there and any herbs, so that was great.”

Lyn said the courtyard where the garden beds were located draws people in who like to garden and so “it’s somewhere to just get out and talk” as much as it is about getting hands in the soil.

Although only three or four residents regularly tend to the garden beds, Dee said “that’s fine because it’s theirs and they’ve got to own it”.

Despite having a much larger vegetable garden that the rest of the residents use, Dee said for those in a wheelchair, it’s just not accessible and these specialised, raised planters allow the chair to fit underneath for residents like Lyn to reach over comfortably.

“It gives her independence. Her home is just around the corner so she’s able to come out here and she can do her own thing because the hose is just behind her, she’s got access to everything,” Dee said.

“I like to be independent, I like to make my own bed and do little things around the place so this is good,” Lyn said.

Although the heat and wind of the last few weeks has played havoc with the plants, crops of basil, sage, chives, parsley and oregano are growing, with a few floral touches to bring some colour.