Children learning about flowers, vegetables and dementia

Vegetable garden project unites kids and residents residential care centre

Children come to dig, plant and do yard work in the vegetable garden at De Ingelanden residential care centre in Utrecht twice a week. "They make contact with the residents here in a natural way." This extraordinary project was made possible in part by Rabobank Utrecht.

Residents and children plant pink, purple and red gladioli with great concentration and care in the vegetable garden at De Ingelanden residential care centre in Leidsche Rijn, a suburb of the city of Utrecht. The 'Mengelmoes' project is an initiative of care organisation AxionContinu. Thanks to this project, residents of the centre can enjoy gardening in their own backyards. "They came up with the idea for a garden themselves," says Lieke Sonderman, project leader at AxionContinu. "Despite their limitations – most of the residents suffer from dementia or are not physically able to take care of themselves – they like to be active outside."

Adjustable planters

The garden was designed by students of University of the Arts Utrecht (HKU). Rabobank Utrecht was one of the financiers. Thanks to a contribution from the Rabobank Utrecht Incentive Fund, a large greenhouse was added to the vegetable garden. With this fund, the local bank supports projects and initiatives in Utrecht, Nieuwegein, De Meern, Vleuten and Harmelen. "The greenhouse allows us to keep gardening, even in bad weather," explains Sonderman. 'We also have Rabobank to thank for the height-adjustable planters that allow wheelchair-bound residents to enjoy gardening too." The harvest from the vegetable garden is prepared in the centre’s kitchen and some of it goes to local restaurant Zuiver. Residents who help in the garden also get some of the harvest. "A self-picked bunch of flowers for example."

Sharing gardening tips

Local schoolchildren visit the vegetable garden twice a week. They work alongside the residents of De Ingelanden. "It’s just fantastic for our residents," says Sonderman. "The children really liven things up around here. And it’s also a great way to pass down knowledge. The residents tell the children about plants and share gardening tips. But the boys and girls aren’t just learning about flowers, vegetables and gardening. They're also making contact with our residents in a natural way. Before the children visit us, we teach them about dementia and how to deal with people affected by this disease. It’s great to see how sweet the children are to our residents."

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