Alive Activities – Gardening for the community
Alive Activities dedicates itself to improving the quality of life of older people, working to prioritise health and wellbeing into later life across the Greater Bristol area, North Somerset and Gloucestershire.
One of the charity’s main objectives is to combat social isolation, one of the greatest challenges faced by older people. Through a range of community engagement projects, Alive helps those in care homes to interact with the wider community, facilitating intergenerational friendships and reducing loneliness. The sessions allow residents to express themselves creatively through meaningful activity such as dance, music, craft and horticulture, all of which offer physically and mentally therapeutic benefits. Over the last year the charity has supported 6,853 older people across a wide range of engaging activities.
Prior to the Covid pandemic, the charity predominantly worked with the residents and staff of care homes. However, these face-to-face activities and training opportunities were stopped immediately when the care homes were closed to visitors in March 2020. Recognising the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the older community, Alive adapted their training and support services to be delivered remotely, which allowed them to continue to support not only care home residents but older people living in their own homes, at a time when their services were needed more than ever. Covid-secure outdoor activities, such as their community gardening groups in Lawrence Weston and Brentry, were lifelines to many older people and their families during the pandemic.
The support did not stop once Covid restrictions were lifted. In the aftermath of the lockdowns, many older people still found themselves isolated and afraid to go outside. In response, Alive developed projects focused on engaging vulnerable people affected by the pandemic, aiming to re-integrate them into the community.
In January 2023 the charity approached SMV for funding to address the need for post-Covid mental health and wellbeing support for those living in inner-city areas of high deprivation. SMV was delighted to provide a grant of £5,000 to enable Alive to continue to deliver a much-needed community gardening project in East Bristol.
Alive worked in partnership with the Wellspring Settlement to set up the gardening project in the Barton Hill and Lawrence Hill area, aiming to connect 70 residents with their neighbours, thereby developing not only personal resilience but also meaningful and lasting social connections, and making the communal green spaces more inviting and accessible places for people to spend time together. The nature of the space allowed all activities to be Covid-secure, and adaptive gardening tools ensured that anyone could take part, regardless of age, health or ability.
In total, 87 participants of all ages took part in the weekly sessions, learning new skills and experiencing the sense of achievement that comes from growing fruit, vegetables and flowers, as well as willow weaving and taking part in wildlife conservation initiatives.
Feedback from the attendees highlights how leading a more active life has vastly improved their mental and physical wellbeing, through meeting, exercising and sharing knowledge as a group. As a result, organisers have seen participants making new friendships and building confidence, thus reducing their social isolation and loneliness. In addition, taking part has encouraged a stronger sense of community and pride in the local area amongst the group.
“You really welcomed me, and the group has a really inclusive atmosphere. Getting out is really hard for those of us who got so isolated over lockdown, but coming here, in the fresh air, and doing this together is a real win”.
– A community gardening group member
“At home I have nothing to do, here I get out and see smiling faces, and it makes me feel like I can talk to everybody. I don’t have a lot of chance to meet new people and it makes me happy.”
– Mr M
Taking part in the project has been incredibly impactful for some participants. J is 97-years old, severely deaf and living with dementia. Initially he only interacted with the carer who brought him to the session and was finding the tasks confusing. However, A, a young person who joined the group, started to write messages on a board to J and this began to open communication between them. By the end of the session, J was contributing to the group, planting flowers, and engaging with the others, talking, asking questions and laughing.