Growing Connections is a Brightlife-funded project for people aged 50+ designed to encourage and support participants to enjoy the outdoors, make new friends, keep active, learn new skills or just rediscover a love of gardening.
It’s hosted at Grozone’s Community Garden; a horticultural and wildlife project situated in the middle of Northwich, where Caroline Rose is the Development Officer.
“Growing Connections is about getting people of all ages together to do healthy activities that make them feel better,” she says. “We’re quite flexible in the activities we do, it can be anything from crafts to growing food to cooking. It does everyone so much good in a myriad of ways – the older ones share their knowledge and skills with the younger ones. It’s very enriching.”
One thing we’ve noticed is that people living on their own don’t really tend to bulk-buy fresh food from the supermarket but because we grow our own fruit and vegetables here, they can just take a little of what they need – whether that’s a handful of lettuce or just one carrot– they don’t have to waste produce. For those that can’t cook, we make healthy meals here so everyone can eat well.”
Someone who has found a sense of purpose with Growing Connections is retired service technician Roy Pearce (69) from Wincham. After his wife of 46 years died, he found himself at a loose end and was feeling quite low. His worried family found out about Grozone so he decided to give it a go.
“I do a bit of everything there,” he says “from weeding to picking fruit to helping people with learning difficulties saw with wood. I needed to tire myself out so I can get a good night’s sleep but it’s also widened my friendship group.”
“While I’m helping them, I’m not missing my wife. They look at me like a father figure and it makes me feel useful… I get as much out of them as they get out of me.”
The project is positive for everyone involved as it adds structure, helps improve self-esteem and allows people to feel a part of a community – all with the added benefit of being out in the fresh air.
“It fills gaps that are needed,” Caroline explains “I’ve always had a fear of being stuck inside because of ill health when I’m older. That’s why I wanted this opportunity to be available and I hope it still will be for me when the time comes! Thanks to the Brightlife funding, over 30 new participants were introduced to the ‘Growing Connections’ group where they’ve been able to develop and share their skills with a real sense of purpose knowing they are supporting others. Whilst this funding has just ended, the existing participants have now all joined other Grozone groups where they volunteer their time to support our other projects and those less capable than themselves.
“I have some mobility problems so can’t get out and about on my own – so I love coming to Grozone with my two girlfriends as a way of getting away from home for a few hours. I love gardening but can no longer do heavy work such as digging… but they have raised beds which makes it easier to plant, pick and weed. I really enjoy the social aspect too – you can join a group then just sit and chat while learning a new craft. It is a wonderful place, everyone makes you feel so welcome and I can do things at my own pace.
Growing Connections Participant.
As part of other help, activities and counselling I consider my time at Grozone to have been (and continuing to be) most positive to my health and mental outlook. It’s hard for me to quantify this benefit using words, and its not easy to tick your [evaluation questionnaire] boxes in a way that conveys this. Metrics aside, I can say Grozone is working for me!
Grozone has been like a second home to me. I would be lost without it… it has got me out of my four walls and built up my confidence