Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Open Gardens: time to grow less cynical amongst the flowers

Today is the Village Open Garden event. Every year people living in the village are asked to open their gardens to the public in order to raise money for charity. I thought this would be great fun and started planning 15 months ago when I bought the house. However, for the last 15 years I've tended a large, traditional and rambling garden, with many mature trees, streams that run through the garden and cascade over waterfalls, 6 lawns, herbaceous borders a plenty and free range chickens. So the 50 shades of a grey gravel strewn tiny space that was the garden here at the House in Scotland was a bit of challenge.

The resultant garden is a space of stories and hope. It is a garden full of surreal objects as well as plants and trees. The plants in the gardens are partly relocated plants from the Manchester garden and plants bought from surrounding areas here in Scotland. It’s becoming a garden to be at peace in, to relax, but also to spark curiosity. It is not, however, a garden for cynics.

Cynicism has been linked to increased risk of dementia in older people a new Finnish study published last week suggests. Cynical distrust was measured by questionnaires used to test an individual’s tendency to believe that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns. Such research in the past has shown the link between cynicism and increased risk of heart disease. These new findings suggest that cynicism, along with smoking, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease could be linked to predisposition to dementia.

The 8 year study involved participants with an average age of 71. Now between 2010 and 2018 an extra 2 million people in the UK will have become 65. 2 years after that the baby boomers generation will also begin retiring. I am a member of the Baby Boomer Cohort Number 1 (those born between 1946 – 1955). During my early life the world saw men walking on the moon for the first time, there was social experimentation, sexual experimentation and often drug experimentation. There was the music of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and the sharing of Glastonbury and Woodstock. We are said to be a group characterised by being experimental, individualistic, free spirited and social cause oriented.  

As this group grow older where they live and how they live is becoming increasingly important. The International Longevity Centre-UK and Age-UK have just published report Making our Communities Ready for Ageing which focuses on 3 themes: being at home, getting out and about; and ensuring communities offer what older people want. The report is full of practical and creative ideas for improving the physical environment, improving transportation, and ensuring better access to community groups. 

However the bit I liked best was: 'if communities are to work for today’s and tomorrow's older population, planners must focus on how we ensure and deliver much more than the basics. There is not enough emphasis on fun and playfulness for older people'. Whatever people think of the new Garden in Scotland today, I will be disappointed if walking around it doesn't make people smile – and a smile is a sure sign of people having fun, whatever their age!