Officials of the Free Town Urban Renewal Centre distributed backyard farming/gardening kits to Senior Citizens residing in the communities that fall under their scope as part of the Centre’s therapeutic gardening initiative. Centre personnel also distributed care bags consisting of food and meat packages to the seniors. Centre Manager, Mrs. Loretta Mackey, said the distribution of seeds, seedlings and fruit trees to seniors was part of their efforts to encourage backyard farming/therapeutic gardening among the seniors while also providing seniors with the opportunity to reap the health benefits associated with the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Mrs. Mackey was assisted in the distribution by Ms. Daphne Bannister, Special Projects Coordinator for the Centre, and other staff members utilizing the health protocols established by the Ministry of Health in order to reduce the community spread of the COVID-19 Virus.
Donated by Member of Parliament for the Free Town Constituency, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, the backyard farming kits consisted of seeds for a number of fruits and vegetables that are said to promote healthy eating lifestyles among senior citizens, including okra, watermelon, beans and sweet peppers. Fertilizer, soil, feeding trays and irrigation systems were also included in the kits.
Centre personnel said backyard farming can eventually produce fruits, vegetables and herbs that can contribute to a healthy, low-cost diet for their seniors, adding that the availability of these foods can result in numerous health benefits that include the strengthening of immune systems which is of particular importance to seniors.
The Centre also partnered with The Bahamas 100K Tree Planting Initiative which aims to plant 100,000 trees and plants of varying species and function across two zones — terrestrial and coastal — across The Bahamas by the end of 2021, to present the seniors with seedlings for plants/trees such as sugar apple, guinep, guava, moringa, soursop, pomegranate and coconut trees.
The trees/plants the Initiative have targeted to plant across The Bahamas include national trees/plants, fruit trees, native and medicinal trees, beach stabilizers and mangroves. The Seniors were provided with tips on the therapeutic benefits of gardening, the best ways in which to establish their gardens, in addition to a discussion on the best timeframes within which to garden to avoid over-exposure to the heat, and tips on safe gardening practices. Mrs. Mackey said Centre officials decided to launch the gardening initiative after research outlined the numerous benefits of gardening for older persons, among them, increased levels of physical activity, added flexibility and mobility by encouraging the use of all of their motor skills, improved endurance and strength, and the prevention of illnesses such as osteoporosis.
She said therapeutic gardening/backyard farming also has the additional benefit of providing those seniors who live alone with an activity they can pursue in a safe environment during the COVID-19 Pandemic, where physical distancing is one of the protocols that is being utilized locally and globally in order to reduce community spread of the virus. Seniors are a high-risk group for contracting the virus.
“In researching the benefits of gardening, we found that gardening is very therapeutic, especially for seniors, particularly those who are still capable of living on their own,” Mrs. Mackey said. “Gardening is said to help fight disease and illness, it builds strength, improves memory, promotes mental health, boosts mood and energy levels, reduces stress, builds confidence, lowers blood pressure for those with high blood pressure, improves sleep and heals and empowers.
“The research further shows that gardening – which is considered a low impact, physical activity – is a great way for seniors to get regular exercise as it is said to be a regular, moderate exercise that helps to reduce the risk of obesity, Type-2 diabetes, stroke depression and much more. The research also shows that the older we get, the less active we become which can lead to a loss of muscle strength and flexibility.”
Mrs. Mackey said the distribution of the care packages, allowed Centre officials to provide their seniors with some additional benefits. The care bags included non-perishable items, in addition to bread basket items. Donated by Dozer Heavy Equipment, the meat packages included chicken leg quarters, turkey breasts, and pork chops among other foods.