Jo Arnell speaks to Pegasus Homes CEO Steve Bangs and floral designer Jonathan Moseley about the wellness benefits of interacting with plants, especially as we age

As we age, our need to connect with nature and with plants remains a key factor in maintaining our wellbeing. The health benefits of getting outside are well known; experiencing the natural world, exercise and fresh air are important for us all, but many positive effects are also experienced when we interact with plants indoors too.

In many later living communities there are accessible outdoor spaces, the best of them even have allotments or gardens where residents can grow plants and vegetables, and interact with nature in a practical and rewarding way. A hands-on experience of nurturing and looking after plants, from growing crops outside to caring for a houseplant or arranging a vase of flowers, provides people with an opportunity to be surrounded by greenery, to actively connect with living plants and gain those all important health and social benefits too.

This is exactly the approach taken by Pegasus Homes, whose latest retirement development, Highfields in West Byfleet ensured that the landscaping reflected the needs of the residents – they were ‘designed to promote a tranquil environment to relax and socialise in’ – along with providing allotments for community gardening and vegetable growing. Featuring two south facing gardens, the beautiful landscaping creates a meaningful space to overlook and enjoy spending time in.

Steve Bangs, CEO at Pegasus, comments on how Pegasus prioritises wellness in its communities:

‘Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.’ This statement from the World Health Organisation is endorsed by Pegasus, whose ethos is centred on wellness in retirement, in short

“At Highfields we’ve [landscaped] to promote a tranquil environment to relax and socialise in, along with providing allotments for community gardening. For our Pegasus communities, homeowners are predominantly downsizing and this also means reducing access to outdoor space as well. Having allotments will mean that those with green-fingers don’t have to say goodbye to a healthy hobby”

Mobility and flexibility may become reduced in later years, but you can still garden outside. Being actively involved in an outdoor project is energising and brings a sense of accomplishment, and of anticipation – looking forward to and planning for the future – what plants to grow, crops to harvest. If this is done in a community setting, the social benefits can markedly increase quality of life.

Raised beds are a good option, constructed to the height that best suits. Try lightweight containers, or those on castors.

Trellises and vertical supports will allow for plants to climb upwards to enable easy access. Make sure that there is a bench nearby, or chairs for a rest in between tasks, or for sitting and admiring achievements.

There are lots of ingenious tools available and are ergonomic, which means they are designed for both efficiency and comfort. Some have been made for people with arthritis and mobility issues.

Automatic watering systems make the arduous and often heavy work of watering redundant, providing they are set up correctly and can be adjusted to suit the prevailing weather. Because the nozzles are pointed directly at the parts of the plants that need it, they can potentially be water-saving too.

“For me spring flowers are arguably my favourite blooms to work with and the fact that many are UK grown and relatively inexpensive makes them attainable for everyone to enjoy.”

Jonathan Moseley, floral designer

Imagine a life where you might be, through immobility or illness, trapped inside for most of the day, unable to step outside for a breath of fresh air, to go for a walk, or do some gardening. Feelings of isolation and depression can result, but health and wellbeing benefits can still be gained from interacting with nature in an indoor situation. Activities like tending to houseplants, propagation and flower arranging are all beneficial, raising self-esteem and promoting a feeling of achievement.

Pegasus Homes connects with external providers, like Jonathan Moseley, a well known floral designer, who has hosted events at Highfields. Jonathan shares his thoughts on the benefits that flowers and nature can bring to our wellbeing in later life, and offers some top tips on creating colourful displays in small areas, and ideas for making cut flowers last longer:

Pegasus has done some research recently with the over 55s and found that 57% of respondents enjoy hobbies to keep them mentally active. It is well known that socialising plays a huge role in mental wellbeing too, and access to communal spaces – both indoors and outside – offer wonderful opportunities to come together and enjoy a new hobby with like-minded people. 
From tending a garden to cultivating a pot plant on a windowsill, research by the Mental Health Foundation highlights the critical role of nature in supporting good mental health and encourages people to connect with ‘everyday’ nature close to home to maximise the benefits it can bring to our wellbeing, whatever our age or ability.

To find out more about Pegasus’s new community, Highfields, and their other developments, visit pegasushomes.co.uk.
Jo’s gardening courses starting
in spring are now booking.
Call 07923 969634 or see hornbrookmanor.co.uk

More than just a pretty face

Jen Stuart-Smith explores the multiple uses of some easy-to-grow garden favourites When you grow flowers for their beauty, shape and colour it can be easy to forget all the other qualities they have to offer. Some are edible, others provide...

Roses all the Way

Jo Arnell turns her attention to the English garden’s most beloved blooms Roses are the beauty queens of the summer garden; delicate, fragrant and romantic – and despite stemming from another continent, they seem a quintessentially English plant. Prima donnas,...

Cream of the crop

Jen Stuart-Smith highlights the celebrated South East nurseries who’ll be appearing at this month’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024, from 21-25 May There can be few garden shows that cause as much excitement as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Founded...