Can walking through a serene garden alleviate depression in older adults? That was the question posed by the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.
In 2006, the two organizations teamed up to offer a garden-walk program and conduct a study of participants. The goal: to determine if independent walking and guided imagery therapy were as effective as, or more effective than, art therapy in relieving symptoms of depression in older adults. The results, released in 2008, showed that participants’ depression decreased during the study.
“It’s been a very fulfilling role for me,” says study leader Ruth McCaffrey, associate professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University. “I really hope others will embrace this idea. You see all these older people out doing qigong and tai chi. They should also be out walking and reflecting.”
Active Aging Today Managing Editor Kristi Turnbaugh interviewed McCaffrey about how the program has evolved to better serve older adults. The interview covers the following questions:
- How did the garden-walk study come about?
- The study set out to discover whether or not garden visits were as effective as, or more effective than, art therapy in relieving symptoms of depression in older adults. Tell us about the study setup.
- The study results led to the development of a book and program called “Stroll for Well-Being.” Can you tell us about that?
- The book is what participants now use when they do the garden walks, and you conducted another study with participants who used the book. What were the findings from that?
- In addition to the program at the Morikami, you’ve started a program at Abbey Del-ray, a senior residential community in Delray Beach. What are some examples of how the program has helped people better reflect on their lives?
- What else should practitioners know about this program?