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A Healthy Dose of Gardening

Brightview Resident Gardening

Gardening is a common practice at many Brightview communities and has become one of the most popular sustainable and healthy activities for both residents and Brightview associates. It's an ideal activity for seniors that promotes physical exercise, mental stimulation, and connection to the outdoors, and gardens can improve air quality. Many residents gardened before moving to Brightview and grew to enjoy the calming exercise – it builds strength and is a creative form of meditation. For some Brightview communities, gardening serves a dual purpose – providing a popular hobby for residents and fresh, homegrown produce for the kitchen that helps reduce environmental impact with reduced processing and travel time.

Like many initiatives at Brightview Senior Living, the abundant community garden at Brightview Mt. Laurel in New Jersey began from a request from a resident many years ago. Mr. Bud asked if he could have a small space for a garden, and Dining Services Director Anthony DePasquale, who grew up on a farm, was excited to make his wish come true. Now, Mr. Bud's apple tree is part of a blossoming community garden that grows bigger every year.

Brightview Mt. Laurel's large, fenced-in garden yields fresh produce for Anthony's team to use in the kitchen. With a restaurant background, Anthony is passionate about fresh ingredients and making as much as he can from scratch – and from local sources. Growing some of those fresh ingredients in the community’s backyard adds up. He estimates that they can save up to $600 in the summer months by growing herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano and produce like tomatoes, zucchini, cantaloupes, and peppers.

His team has even created occasional special dining experiences for residents, thanks to their garden-to-table setup. "We try to do a lot of different things, like grill filets or chicken," he said. "We will pick produce right from the garden and put it on the grill for dinner, like eggplant and zucchini. We have a dining table right by the garden; the residents watch their food being prepared fresh on the grill, and they enjoy a few bottles of wine while they eat and gather with their friends. Some of that wine is also a product of the garden; the garden's four blackberry bushes yielded enough berries to make blackberry jam, wine, and brandy.

Residents aren't the only ones benefitting from Mt. Laurel's blossoming garden. Associates are welcome to plant something or spend their break near the beautiful and peaceful space.  A concierge wanted her own rose bush, so Anthony planted it and gave her the tools to care for it over the summer. "I told her, this is yours; you take care of it," he said. "So now, she eats lunch on the picnic bench next to her bush; she takes care of the roses and picks them for a vase at the front desk instead."

"Sometimes, when you have an off day inside, you can step out, pull some weeds, cut a plant back, and calm your mind," Anthony added.

At Brightview Port Jefferson on Long Island, New York, enthusiasm for gardening is also strong, thanks to a passionate group of residents. Brightview Port Jefferson has a unique potting room filled with tools and large windows that open to the courtyard and raised flower beds beyond. According to Vibrant Living Director Nahshon Ford, the Brightview team made the proper materials available, and the residents ran with the opportunity to nurture their garden beds.

"The residents would go twice a day to make sure the garden was well cared for," he said. "It became so popular, we had to create a smaller garden for our residents who primarily live in Assisted Living on the second floor." The flowerpots on the Assisted Living patio, plus the raised beds on the ground, were overflowing with growth by the summer's end. The residents harvested herbs and vegetables from the garden, allowing the dining team to incorporate the fresh produce in resident meals and happy hour appetizers.

"Gardening has provided a sense of purpose and callable action," Nahshon said. "It brought about calm and peace for those who participated."

Brightview Resident Gardening

This spring, like many others, Anthony is beginning preparations for another successful gardening season at Brightview Mt. Laurel. 

"I usually spend a full day tilling the ground and lining it with a weed barrier," he said. "After it's planted and stabilized, it's more low maintenance."

Anthony carefully plans his garden plot and uses a paper weed barrier to keep it as low maintenance as possible throughout the summer. After the plants are stable and growing well, he only spends a few hours a week weeding, watering, and picking any ripe produce.

At the end of the season, it typically takes Anthony a few hours to pull up the plants and till it over the winter.

In Anthony's dreams, he would love a greenhouse to grow produce year-round. He also hopes to make the garden even more accessible by adding raised beds at different levels and more worktables that all residents can reach, no matter their mobility.


Brightview Senior Living builds, owns, and operates award-winning vibrant senior living communities in eight states along the East Coast: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. We offer senior Independent Living, Assisted Living, Enhanced Care, and Wellspring Village, a specialized neighborhood for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Schedule a personal visit to experience our communities firsthand.


Health and Wellness, Resident Perspectives, Vibrant Living