The following entry was written by Leah Hook, and covers her Gold Award Project "Enriching the Lives of the Elderly." Learn all about why she chose this project, how she accomplished it and what it's doing to bring joy for a particular group in her community. Amazing work, Leah!
For my Gold Award project, I created a bird and butterfly sanctuary in the main outdoor garden (the Rose Garden) of the Wesleyan at Scenic Skilled Nursing, Rehabilitation and Memory Care facility in Georgetown, TX. This entailed providing appropriate habitat for the birds and butterflies by creating new garden beds of native plantings that attract wildlife as well as installing a variety of birdhouses and bird feeders.
My project addressed the social and emotional needs of the 165 aging residents at the Wesleyan. As in most health care facilities for the elderly, many of the residents there spend a great deal of time in their rooms, secluded from the other residents. In medical terms, they are "socially isolated." The bird and butterfly sanctuary enticed them to come outdoors more often to enjoy the beauty of nature. It also provided them opportunities to socialize with more of the residents and guests. The enriching activity of bird- and butterfly-watching allowed them to develop both new hobbies and new social connections, thereby reducing their isolation and loneliness.
Over a year's time, I completely renovated the Wesleyan's Rose Garden which serves as the main gathering place for residents and guests. This involved a great deal of manual labor (of my family, volunteers, and me): we weeded all existing beds, pruned all trees and shrubs, removed leaves and debris, planted new ground cover, drew new garden borders, developed landscaping plans, and selected and installed new native plants and a decorative garden trellis. The other part of my project entailed the the creation and installation of birdhouses, bird feeders and a butterfly house in order to draw wildlife to the gardens.
As the culminating activity, I presented a bird-watching program to the residents in which I educated them about the birds most common to Williamson County and their unique characteristics and calls. This enabled them to identify the birds that are frequenting the Rose Garden. Along with a slideshow presentation, I also created a bird reference guide, The Georgetown Chorus, of the ten most common birds to visit bird feeders and gardens in the County.
The most successful aspect of my 110 hour project was increasing senior resident's interest in coming outdoors and viewing the numerous birds and butterflies within the Rose Garden. The overgrown, weed-filled, poorly maintained Rose Garden is now a beautiful, thriving bird and butterfly sanctuary teeming with life. Some of the residents are participating in the project by adding birdhouses, bird feeders, and plants of their own. Most importantly, the residents are interacting with each other as they talk about the new plantings and the different birds and butterflies that are drawn to the sanctuary. With the new activity of bird- and butterfly-watching, they are building common interests and connecting socially.