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Act 23: Invigorating garden for the elderly

Act 23: Invigorating garden for the elderly

The concrete patio of the Kultasimppu sheltered home for the elderly, run by Haukipudas Municipality, was transformed into a green oasis through volunteer work. This pilot garden project is a great example of the power of collective cooperation. A lot can be achieved with a zero budget if the right attitude is there. The project is also a statement on a topical subject, the quality of life of elderly people – this, says the project, is something which we can all help to improve.

The pilot garden project, named ‘Sensory Oasis’, was prompted by the public concern in Haukipudas over the institutional nature of the living environment for many elderly people today. The aim was to create an invigorating garden for the elderly residents at the Kultasimppu sheltered housing facility and for their visiting families and the staff, and to encourage residents to engage in therapeutic gardening. The concrete slab patio was turned into this uplifting garden as a result of an initiative under a scheme to encourage third sector involvement.

“The challenge of institutional living and of working in such an environment is lack of variety and stimulation, which can easily wear you out. The completed garden, this ‘Sensory Oasis’, now provides a stimulating environment for the variety of residents here and the staff. The garden also has references to the area’s history and source of livelihood,” says Mairit Toppi, project manager for the third sector scheme (Vireä kolmas sektori).

The garden was created with a zero budget, using donated items, recycled materials and volunteer input. At current prices, it would have cost around 20,000 euros.

“We set up a core team for planning and building the garden. This included representatives of various organisations as well as private individuals such as residents’ family members. The work took four evenings, and we had altogether about 50 volunteers who clocked up an amazing total of 346 hours’ work,” says Toppi.

A happy and active old age matters to us all
The frequently championed ideal of enjoying a happy and active old age has actually been turned into reality here at the Haukipudas pilot garden project, completed in June. The luxuriant garden features an apple tree, strawberries, edible flowers and herbs, to name a few examples. Residents and staff can regularly be seen having coffee in the garden, which has also become something of a meeting place for elderly residents of neighbouring buildings too.

Building the garden also generated a sense of community. The project drew together volunteers of different ages, including the children of a nearby daycare centre who came to plant the donated pansies.

“There was really a great feeling about getting the job done, and many of the volunteers got very involved with the project.
One thing that came up a lot in conversation was thoughts about the future and one’s own old age. So we built the garden in a way for ourselves too,” says Toppi. She invites the other municipalities that will be part of the new enlarged Oulu to set up similar projects based on this successful pilot.

“Good deeds are all a question of attitude!”

For more information on the ‘Sensory Oasis’ pilot garden project:
Mairit Toppi, project manager
Vireä kolmas sektori third sector scheme
tel. 050 420 1596

Oulu’s ‘100 Acts’ programme brings the municipalities of the Oulu region together and gives everyone the chance to turn the spotlight on worthy actions that take us forward. Take a look at the ‘100 Acts’ programme and submit your own project or candidate, at