Horticulture Therapy Programs Thrive at Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden

Older Adults get a chance to practice Tai Chi along the shaded shoreline of Lake Osceola, stroll for exercise and attend classes focused on gardening topics thanks to a $9,625 grant awarded by the Winter Park Health Foundation through the Older Adults Work Group to the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Designed to give seniors a variety of unique opportunities to exercise and socialize, the grant-funded programs include a 2,000 Steps for Better Health Path where visitors can stroll and meditate; the lecture series on gardening topics; a hands-on opportunity for anyone interested in volunteering to tend the garden grounds; a “kitchen garden” where people can see vegetables grow; and weekly Tai Chi lessons.

As a result, the Museum now has 30 people volunteering time in the garden. There are 12 to 19 participants at the weekly Tai Chi classes and anywhere from 25 to 50 attending lectures, according to Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director-Older Adults. And those participating are primarily over age 60—the target audience for the project.

Participants are routinely surveyed about their experience with these programs and have had positive things to say. They report an increase in physical activity, a reduction in stress, and improvements in health, nutrition, and socialization.

Several participants have constructed or have plans for elevated garden beds at their residences.  The participants also say the bond between volunteers has continued to grow with respect, friendship, and camaraderie between all.

The Tai Chi classes on Saturday mornings have exceeded expectations. The Tai Chi instructor added, “the ages of the participants range from 20-78. Both women and men attend. Two of the participants have severe physical limitations, mainly due to geriatric issues. These two individuals use chairs for support while performing some of the routines. As a class, I have observed that all regular attendees have made physical gains. While in the beginning most were able to perform three or four repetitions of each routine before tiring, they are all now able to perform six repetitions of each warm up routine with greater ease and flexibility.“

“Teaching the Tai Chi Class in the Polasek Garden leads me to believe that the class enhances the whole artful ambiance at the garden” the instructor continued.

“Visitors moving through the garden while the class is in session sometimes watch us as moving art.”

All classes are free through December, although participants are required to pre-register. For more information about the programs—and to register for them—call the museum at 407-647-6294. To view the activity calendar, go to www.polasek.org.