“Linden Ponds is the best choice I ever made, signing up for a garden patch is number two,” says Robert Schipul, a resident who serves as co-chair of the Linden Ponds Gardeners at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Senior Living managed retirement community in Hingham, MA. “There are so many hidden benefits besides getting out and ‘mucking it up’ in your very own garden space.” One of those benefits, according to researchers, is improved health and vitality. A study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reported that “A growing body of research suggests that exposure to nature and time outdoors provides numerous health benefits, and an improved sense of well-being.” Robert agrees wholeheartedly.
“I most enjoy the fresh air, the ability to plant a seed and see it grow, and the camaraderie of the gardeners who become new friends,” he says. “I believe that the gardens at Linden Ponds provide the greatest therapy benefits and reach more residents than any other endeavor at Linden Ponds! I know that is a very sweeping statement; but it is reflected daily as gardeners’ dialog with each other and speak to our leadership group about ‘life’ at Linden Ponds. Our gardens touch 75% of our residents in some way.”
A full harvest
The Linden Ponds Gardeners maintain over 100 personal garden patches nestled into one of several quarries on the beautiful campus. Currently, 115 community members cultivate a personal garden, often with the help of a spouse or friend. Additional residents assist the group with path maintenance and watering, bringing the total number of Linden Ponds community members involved in horticultural efforts to over 200. “Residents grow everything you can put in a garden, from popular tomatoes and beans to exotic international vegetables,” says Robert. “Our gardeners also grow a variety of both perennial and annual flower gardens, as well as grapes and blueberries.” According to Robert, one of the greatest benefits of the gardens is the residents’ willingness to share their harvest. “There is nothing more precious than to give or receive fresh vegetables or flowers just picked from the garden patches,” he says. “The growing season can produce up to 300 to 400 pounds of fresh veggies and or flowers. We traditionally host a farmers market during the peak of the growing season, where residents may shop for fresh veggies or flowers on a Friday, with donations going to the student scholarships or [Resident] Care Fund at Linden Ponds.”
Always searching for new ways to utilize their green thumbs, the Linden Ponds Gardeners are currently constructing four new raised garden beds. In addition to the personal gardens, Linden Ponds maintains a 108-acre arboretum, where native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are identified, catalogued, and digitally tagged with descriptions. “The four-season New England beauty and extensive area of our tree, shrub, and garden landscape at Linden Ponds provides both a fun and ongoing benefit to all our residents,” says community member Linda Nolan. “Activities such as scavenger hunts and tree identification help to keep residents involved and active. The environment is particularly enhancing to an uplifting feeling and engagement with others.”
Enjoying the handiwork
Often walking along paths to appreciate the Linden Ponds gardens, arboretum, and views of the Plymouth River, numerous Linden Ponds residents belong to one of the walking groups on campus. Each Wednesday, community member and landscape architect Ed Petcavage leads a nature walk around the community. “Linden Ponds has a lot of open land, including wetlands and different populations of plants and animals,” he says. “Our group also enjoys birdwatching and maintaining a comprehensive list of the various birds observed on campus.” Community member Mary Anne Buss leads fellow residents on weekly Friday morning hikes both on campus and in other local conservation areas. “It is very informal; if you want to walk, just show up,” she says. “We all enjoy the easy camaraderie of walking in the woods with others. Some of us stop to look at plants, others enjoy just walking. It’s a very welcoming group.” According to Molly Lynch St. John, Linden Ponds’ community resources manager, joining the Linden Ponds Gardeners or walking groups is just the icing on the cake when it comes to opportunities to enjoy invigorating time outdoors. “Some of our most-popular activities include outdoor adventures,” she says. “Our residents also enjoy the bocce club, outdoor photography club, and a large variety of community-sponsored events. The only difficulty is deciding what to do!”
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