This approach was born out of a recent report which highlighted "the experience of emotional neglect resulting from feeling isolated, ignored or powerless" for some older people in care homes.
The Panicoa (Preventing Abuse and Neglect in Institutional Care of Older Adults) report said that one of the weakest areas of care performance was in "the social engagement of older people and their need for meaning and purpose in their life".
It also states that many staff experience work-related stress and emotional "burn out", the overall level of job satisfaction for care assistants is low and while staff were keen to develop their skills and capabilities, the opportunities to do so were limited.
Gardening Together, funded by Comic Relief and The Rayne Foundation, and due to start later this year, sees residents and selected staff working together with Thrive’s horticultural therapist. Thrive said as well as staff and residents bonding from working together, collectively they benefit from the sense of achievement of taking part in this gardening activity and seeing plants grow, which boosts their self-esteem and can contribute to relieving stress and improving job satisfaction.
The charity added that it allows participating residents to feel a sense of empowerment and independence, particularly those that previously enjoyed gardening, but felt it was an interest they had to give up and also enables residents to engage in a social activity that provides meaning and purpose whilst contributing to their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Thrive expects residents and staff will develop a stronger feeling of wellbeing and purpose as they become more connected whilst sharing common activities which builds a stronger community within the home.
Staff will receive training from Thrive, so learn new skills which improves their job satisfaction, and this increases as they can share these skills.
During the course of a year Thrive will work with 14 care homes in Berkshire and North Hampshire to provide two hours a week of structured gardening for residents for eight weeks using modified gardening practices, situations and tools. Residents and selected staff will work in groups of no more than 8 as this nurtures social interaction, communication and team working.
Thrive chief executive Kathryn Rossiter said: "Gardening Together aims to help people be healthier for longer and live fuller lives after they leave their own homes.
"Using adapted gardening methods and tools, new and experienced gardeners alike can enjoy a healthy activity that is beneficial to their overall wellbeing.
"As people leave their homes they may feel vulnerable as they lose their independence. Gardening can add structure to their lives and give some independence back. It has been shown to improve residents’ health and wellbeing, and gives them a sense of empowerment.
"The changes people face as they age impacts on their physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing and they can become more socially isolated. Group gardening is a therapeutic way to address these issues.
"As well as benefiting residents, this will have a positive impact in the care sector, and will support care home staff to provide meaningful and beneficial activities to residents through gardening.
"We want staff to gain more job satisfaction and feel more empowered to help residents live a more fulfilled life. There is an extra positive benefit for the care home sector, as residents and staff take pride in their surrounding knowing that they have contributed to the environment in which they live and work."