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Gardens bring healing power to the heartland

New spaces in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tiong Bahru Park aim to improve well-being of seniors

Felicia Choo on 20 Sep 2017

The Straits Times


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With its fragrant and different-textured plants surrounding a fitness area and benches, a new garden in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park aims to do more than just please the senses.


Called a therapeutic garden, it was designed by the National Parks Board (NParks) to provide respite and improve the mental well-being of visitors.


This and another in Tiong Bahru Park opened yesterday have wheelchair-friendly fitness stations and planters that are sloped or of different heights.


Together with the first launched at HortPark in May last year, the gardens are part of the Action Plan for Successful Ageing announced in 2015. Activities like nature art and gardening aim to stimulate participants' senses and memories through interaction with nature, and encourage motor and hand-eye coordination.


"Families don't have many good places to take the elderly with dementia," said Mr Stephen Chan, centre manager and occupational therapist at the Alzheimer's Disease Association. "But when they are in a garden, they are in a safe space and there is room for the family to mingle and for the elderly person to walk around."


He pointed out features, such as a distinct walking path and brightly coloured signs that are designed for those with dementia.


Each garden and its programmes cost $500,000, with construction firm Woh Hup funding the development of the 900 sq m garden in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park through the Garden City Fund.


NParks has also collaborated with the National University Health System to conduct studies on the effects of therapeutic horticulture on the elderly.


One study last year found that of 69 elderly residents in Jurong, those who engaged in such horticulture were more satisfied with life and felt more socially connected. They were at less risk of depression and inflammation-associated diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.


Another study which started in May aims to find out how effective therapeutic horticulture is in preventing dementia. Researchers are now recruiting 100 participants.


Bishan resident Loy Boon Ngeow does not need a study to want to spend time in green places. The retired civil defence officer, 71, and his wife tend to an herb garden in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park nearly every day. He also contributed some herbs to the therapeutic garden.


"It helps us to pass the time and we both enjoy growing herbs for the community," said Mr Loy.


Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee were at the launch of the garden at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park yesterday.


Mr Lee said that eight in 10 households here live within a 10-minute walk of a green space, and the authorities hope to increase this to nine in 10 by 2030.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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