Interactions between Elderly Adults and Preschool Children in a Horticultural Therapy Research Program

in HortTechnology

This report examines the behavior of elderly adults and preschool children during horticultural therapy (HT) activities to determine if combining intergenerational groups would complement or detract from the HT goals for each group separately. During a 10-week observation period, data were collected on video documenting attendance, participation time and pattern during separate age group and intergenerational activities. These data were used to determine if interactions changed over time or in response to different activities. Participation appeared to be affected by activity design, difficulty level, individual ability, and availability of assistance from volunteers. Children's participation during separate age group activities appeared to be affected mainly by the difficulty level and activity design. Elderly adults' participation during separate age group activities appeared to be affected by individual ability limitation and availability of assistance. Children's intergenerational participation scores appeared to show an increase in the category of “working with direct assistance”, while elderly adults' intergenerational scores appeared to show an increase in the categories of “no participation” and “independent participation”. In part, the change in intergenerational participation appeared to be due to a decrease in assistance available from volunteers for each individual. For some individuals, the introduction of intergenerational groups appeared to detract from personal participation in horticulture activities. If the goal of the HT is directly related to the individual's activity in horticulture (i.e., increased self-esteem from successfully designing and building a terrarium), the intergenerational element appears to reduce the potential for that benefit. The percentage of total social interaction time between the generations during activities increased over time. The intergenerational activities involving plant-based activities seemed to be more successful at increasing intergenerational exchange than the craft-type activities. Therefore, horticulture may be a useful activity for programs with a goal of increased intergenerational interaction.

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