Bupa and the RSPB have joined forces to bring wildlife gardening to over 300 of the health and care company's care homes in 2011.
Using its Homes for Wildlife project, the RSPB hopes to bring many species that are currently in decline in British gardens to Bupa care homes, from house sparrows and song thrushes to butterflies, bees and hedgehogs.
Bupa and the wildlife charity hopes that as well as creating more homes for birds and other creatures, the initiative will reignite a passion for wildlife among care home residents or spark a new interest.
Once the project is established, it will also provide Bupa's residents with the opportunity to take part in wildlife related activities. Whether this be watching and observing birds on window feeders, building and painting nest boxes or where possible, helping staff to create new habitats like ponds, bog gardens and wildflower meadows , residents will be offered a wide range of extra activities and a wealth of benefits.
Homes for Wildlife was piloted in a number of Bupa care homes in its Midlands and Wales region in 2010. It started with a training day which was attended by activity coordinators, gardeners, maintenance staff and chefs from Bupa's care homes. The day was jointly hosted by the RSPB and Bupa and attendees learnt how to identify opportunities to make the grounds of the homes more appealing to wildlife and were given ideas to involve residents, of all capabilities, in wildlife related activities.
Almost 90% of those taking part in the pilot rated it useful or very useful prompting Bupa to start a roll-out of the programme across their UK homes in 2011.
Sue Brach, home manager at Grey Ferrers Care Home in Leicester said: "Where we have residents receiving dementia care, participation has been outstanding. Relatives are taking home pictures of their residents doing the work and it's really having an impact. You can't replace smiling faces and occupied, engaged residents."
RSPB research indicates that for the elderly or those recovering from illness and receiving nursing care, close access to nature is important. The benefits of gardening also include increased physical and mental activity, a sense of purpose, and opportunities to develop friendships.
Richard Bashford from the RSPB commented: "There's been loads of enthusiasm from staff and residents already about the benefits of this project. We know that access to wildlife and green spaces is important for people, especially the elderly or those recovering from illness. The benefits of gardening also include increased physical and mental activity, a sense of purpose and opportunities to develop friendships.
"Gardens and outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly important refuges for our native wildlife. As well as following our wildlife gardening advice, staff and residents will be able to monitor their results by taking part in regular wildlife surveys throughout the year.
"We hope both people and wildlife will reap the rewards of this partnership."
Bupa's purpose is to help people lead longer, healthier, happier lives.
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