Growing up...our own garden

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Growing up...our own garden : A therapeutic garden for seniors in the center of Athens

Athens, GreeceAthens, Greece
Year Founded:
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Therapeutic Garden will be a new green space in the center of Athens, where older people will meet, socialize, interact with each other, and learn from each other.
The importance of therapeutic gardens in wellness and rehabilitation has been described multiply in the scientific literature.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if older people with Alzheimer’s disease who live in the center of Athens could grow their own garden?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Due to the economic crisis in Greece there is a great lack in innovative programs aiming at healthy aging but also in geriatric patients’ care (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). In a rapid changing society, the elderly become and feel marginalized, worthless. Geriatric patients’ care is often limited in their apartment, lacking the contact with nature and other people, especially in big urban centers.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Therapeutic Gardens aim at both promoting Active Aging and the development of innovative, non-pharmacological therapies for geriatric patients. Moreover, they contribute to the enhancement of the relationship between people and nature. The garden will be a new green space in the center of Athens, where older people will meet, connect to each other and engage in achieving common goals. The Therapeutic Garden will be addressed to healthy older people, where in their spare time they will be employed voluntarily in the creation and care of the garden (plantation of flowers, watering, collection) and elderly patients (with Alzheimer’s, depression or other health problems) and their caregivers to facilitate their rehabilitation.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

An “abandoned” with little or no green square in the center of Athens will transform into a green space full of trees and flowers, bushes, and pathways. Older citizens will be the protagonists of the creation of the garden; they will voluntarily get involved to both the plantation and the gardening. No one is excluded from the therapeutic garden. Older people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) will have an active role too. Along with their caregivers they will do their own part in the planting and the gardening procedure.AD patients often have excessive amount of energy and the tendency towards wandering. The therapeutic garden will be an ideal place for them to walk around without the fear of getting lost, since it will be protected by a fence.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Greece is one of the most “aging” countries in Europe, counting more than 1.800.000 people over 65 years (>17% of its population). Furthermore, currently there are more than 200.000 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia in Greece, most of them habitants of big urban centers. In the municipality of Athens there are 25 “Friendship Clubs”, where people over 60 spend their time, get entertainment, socialize with each other. They count more than 5000 members, with a daily dynamic of 1000. People with Alzheimer’s disease who live in their houses along with their family caregivers refer to day care centers, which are no more than 4 in Athens. Senior citizens can obtain multiple benefits from the creation of a therapeutic garden in their city: environmental, social, economic and aesthetic benefits, which are also related to the improvement of mental and physical health.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our aim is to involve the healthy aging population and to include patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia in the creation and maintenance of a therapeutic garden. A key strategy for promoting the program is to inform and involve the structures dealing with healthy seniors, such as friendship clubs and also day care centers that treat AD patients. We also aim at starting a “net” of therapeutic gardens, in order to serve even more seniors in a neighborhood level and to reform unexploited spaces in Athens into green spaces full of life and activities.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The creation and the care of the garden will be supported by volunteer seniors The therapeutic garden will be allocated in the center of Athens. The costs of water supply, plants and other expenses will be covered by donations and charities. Another plan is that the therapeutic garden will be in the jurisdiction of the Dpt. of Green of the City of Athens in order to start a program of space exploitation for active aging purposes.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There is an essential need of collaboration with the Municipality of Athens in order to locate the space where the garden will be created and to attract the audience (older people) who will participate. The initial reply from the municipality is positive. Nestor Psychogeriatric Association, that serves more than 5000 patients and caregivers per year, will inform and involve patients with Alzheimer's disease and their families to the project. Nestor will also contact other Alzheimer's associations in Athens in order to participate.

Founding Story

"Health policies for Alzheimer's disease (AD) in France suggest therapeutic gardens as one of the most effective non-pharmacological interventions for patients with AD", Antonis had once said. During a session, Georgia asked Mrs. M. -the wife of a patient with severe AD- about what Mr. M does during his day, she said “Just gardening, but he loves it.” Spring 2014 arrived and Despoina introduced the new flowers to her occupational therapy group of patients with AD. They were so excited! Some days later Sia got the email for the Ashoka's competition, gathered everyone, providing them with the details...and the brainstorming started...Therapeutic Garden! Evangelia's phone at the Municipality of Athens rang, it was Antonis on the line...


Antonis Mougias, Georgia Pratila, Sia Natsiopoulou and Despoina Elena, mental health professionals at Nestor Psychogeriatric Association will organize the creation and the operation of the therapeutic garden, communicate it to the audience, track and involve the beneficiaries (seniors, patients with AD, caregivers). Evangelia Tsapatsari, sociologist at the Municipality of Athens, will give advice and guidance to the team.