March 19 – 25 is National Horticultural Therapy Week. Its purpose is "to encourage others to help expand and elevate horticultural therapy as a profession."
People who interact with plants are healthier. Thus, using plants in therapy to help improve a person's body, mind and spirit just make good sense.
Horticultural Therapy is a growing profession and field of study. Although horticulture has been used as therapy for centuries, today it is a global practice used to treat those of all ages and abilities. It is used in rehabilitation and vocational centers, youth outreach programs, nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, prisons, schools, mental health centers, and more.
The numbers of those living with a disability in our University of Illinois Extension Unit is higher that the state average. In 2010, it was estimated that those with a disability who are not institutionalized make up 10.6% of the Illinois' total population. All four counties in our Extension Unit are higher than this state estimate with Fulton at 14.7%, Mason at 16.4%, Peoria at 11.1%, and Tazewell at 11.1%.
We at University of Illinois Extension are committed to reaching our under-served audiences. Thus, we are training staff and volunteers about how to add, enhance, and improve projects and programs to reach these individuals better.
For the past two years, University of Illinois Extension staff and volunteers serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties have attended Horticultural Therapy Symposiums at Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin. Also attending training were staff from the Schramm Educational Center in Pekin. Attendees learned adaptive gardening strategies that will help folks be more involved with gardening. A Master Gardener attendee wrote, "I loved learning about sensor stimulation when training to be an Activities Assistant and working in memory care."
These training opportunities were partially funded by a donation from the Knights of Columbus of Pekin. Those attending the Wisconsin training are passing along their new knowledge to other Master Gardeners. Other garden-based therapy projects in these four counties include work at nursing homes, prisons, schools, youth outreach programs, and more.
To learn more about horticultural therapy, go to the American Horticultural Therapy Association website at ahta.org.