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Grannies Caribbean project 2
Gardening can bring people together – even when they are separated by an ocean.

For proof, look no further than Grannie’s Caribbean Garden which is all about connecting elderly people to the wellbeing positives of horticulture during a socially isolating pandemic.

The Green Care project was created by Taiwo Adeogun, who’s largely based in Barbados, and her sister Kehinde, who lives in the UK.

They have been combining digital communication with face-to-face interactive gardening to improve health, wellbeing and quality of life for seniors.

Recently they completed a pilot project with The Green community centre in south London where they ran a gardening workshop for 12 people, including those from a Caribbean heritage.

Grannies Caribbean project 3
The London workshop in action

What made their approach different is that while Kehinde facilitated in person, Taiwo presented short films about how to grow microgreens from her mother Beulah’s garden in Barbados.

The pre-recorded videos featuring 92-year-old Beulah were not only instructional but provided a way for people to share their Caribbean and Bajan heritage even when separated by physical distance, with plants and flowers being used to stimulate memory of tradition and cultural expression.

‘We had a fantastic reaction, those taking part were definitely motivated,’ said Taiwo. ‘They made connection with other people, as no one knew each other. They were asking “When could we have it again?” It was really good.’

Capturing the imagination

As well as reducing isolation, the session reignited old skills or provided new ones, increasing confidence. For those who may have given up on gardening due to physical constraints, the tabletop session helped them see there was still an accessible way they could engage.

The Grannie’s Caribbean Garden approach of using simply shot and edited films to engage seniors in gardening for health has captured the imagination of people across the globe.

The project’s Instagram page has quickly developed a sizeable following and a recently launched website aims to provide new resources to connect more older people to the health and social benefits of gardening.

With a background in anthropology and life history, Taiwo is no stranger to helping seniors. She previously worked with Age UK and has done research in independent living for older people. But it was her return to Barbados to care for her 92-year-old mother that provided the catalyst for Grannie’s Caribbean Garden.

Grannies Caribbean project
Beulah checking out seeds for planting

Beulah is part of the Windrush generation and has been a gardener for more than 50 years. In her younger days, she was no stranger to ploughing and digging the Barbadian soil, but the advancing years curtailed this.

However, Taiwo noticed how her mum ‘came alive’ as they spent more time together in the garden and saw a way to use gardening for social connection and better health.

Taiwo said: ‘I’ve always been on a Social and Therapeutic Horticulture journey without knowing it, but what defined it for me was seeing very clearly the physical and emotional changes in my mother.

‘Coming from a research background I was curious about what does this mean, why does it make a difference?’

Joys and sorrows

This curiosity led her to do some training courses with Thrive, including Setting up an STH project.

Guided by her mum, Taiwo has been busy developing Beulah’s garden so it can provide the backdrop for filmed gardening for health activities and the creation of digital resources which can be shared with seniors globally.

Beulah is naturally a key part of the appeal of Grannie’s Caribbean Garden as she shares her knowledge of plants, gardening, heritage and culture.

The joys and sorrows of ageing well are also shared with the audience, and reaction from far-flung places suggests these stories of gardening in the Caribbean are not only connecting with people, but are valued.

Covid has underlined the need to reach isolated people in new ways and Grannie’s Caribbean Garden is using everyday digital technology in simple but effective ways to do exactly that.

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Planting out

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