One of my tasks over the last few months has been to help organise one of TCVs Feva Forum events. These events are all about sharing good practice and highlighting work that is being done in various areas of environmental volunteering, nature conservation and community engagement. The event that I was working on, entitled ‘Green Health in Later Life’ took place on the 16th of September at the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at The University of Stirling. The theme of the event was older people and environmental volunteering– so very relevant to my traineeship which is all about engaging older people with their local nature.
Being involved in organising the forum was a new experience for me and something very different to the rest of the work I have been doing over the last 7 months at TCV. The event took a surprisingly large amount of organising for a half day, but the process was an interesting one and gave me a the welcome opportunity to reflect on what I have learnt so far in my traineeship and the best way to share some of this learning with others.
The event began with a fascinating talk from Ruth Jepson, Senior Scientific Adviser at the the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research & Policy (SCPHRP) at The University of Edinburgh. Ruth gave us an overview of the research to date on the benefits of spending time outdoors and of volunteering for older people (there is as of yet no research looking at the benefits of specifically environmental volunteering). Ruth provided a great background to the event and also highlighting the need for more research in this area, especially from the UK as almost all the studies in the area come from the USA.
Next, we heard from Polly Mark, Dementia Adviser at Alzheimer Scotland. Polly told us about some of the work that Alzheimer Scotland do in the community, focusing particularly on their allotment project in Bellahouston, Glasgow. I had the pleasure of visiting this great project and helping out on a scorching day in July.
Next up it was my manager, David Graham (Health Development Manager at TCV) and me talking about TCV’s Ageing Well Project. I was a bit daunted by the idea of having to present my work to others but in the end I found it a great opportunity to practice the presentation skills I learnt in the natural communities presentation skills training either this year! Preparing my talk and workshop was also a welcome opportunity to reflect on what I have learned and achieved so far in my traineeship and to reduce this down to some lessons I have learned which I could share with others. I decided to focus on two projects, my work in care homes and the herb garden project at Devlin Court. I was lucky enough to be joined my Amanda, the manager of Devlin Court and Margret and Janet, two of the residents who were able to share some of their experiences of the project during my presentation. I was also joined by my friend, Tricky who is a local occupational therapist and has been helping me design the care home activities and working to evaluate the impact of the activities on the mood, motivation and engagement of the residents.
We were then lucky enough to have the use of the dementia friendly garden at the DSDC (and to have a warm, dry September morning) for a couple of practical workshops to finish of the day. Jenny Simpson from Trellis ran a workshop called ‘adapting gardening to suit your group’ where she shared some of her insights into therapeutic gardening and some ideas for people hoping to set up their own therapeutic gardening groups. The second workshop was run by Tricky and I on the theme of nature based activities in care homes, we encouraged our participants to try out one of the activities (a nature palette) and then share their experiences with the group.
In summary, it was a short but jam packed half day and one that I hope offered some useful and interesting insights into working with older people in the outdoors to the attendees. A huge thank you to everyone who came along to the event and especially to Jenny, Ruth and Polly for speaking at the forum.
Here are some photos from the day, courtesy of Graham Burns: