BFE design & develop Sensory Garden for new elderly housing and care project in Walker

Building Futures East are proud to work in partnership with St Anthony of Padua Community Association to develop a new housing project for older people with care and housing needs in Newcastle.

BFE’s Garden & Environmental Team will design, install and maintain a unique ‘Sensory Garden’ for this project which commenced in August 2013 and which will see 16 one-bedroom flats being built out of the existing structure of the St Francis of Assisi Church on Stott’s Road, Walker.

This supported housing development is expected to be completed by June 2014 and will ensure that the tenants are able to live independently in their own homes much longer than they may have ordinarily because of the extra support available on site. Tenants will have round-the-clock support from St Anthony’s Care Services and have access to this unique Sensory Garden.

Creating a Sensory Garden requires careful consideration of a number of important factors: Plants, layout, security, comfort, safety, accessibility, inter-activity and movement from inside to outside. The Sensory Garden, as well as being engaging, also needs to be a visually-attractive space helping to relieve tension and connecting its users with nature to enhance and uplift residents, families and staff alike.

If such outdoor spaces are well-designed, they can have very beneficial effects on the health of the elderly as they encourage people to spend more time outdoors. Careful consideration is taken when designing gardens such as these to ensure that there is plenty of shade as well as light, that walkways and path surfaces are accessible and safe and that plants are carefully selected for their sensory properties such as colour and smell.

‘Raised bed’ areas and accessible greenhouses allow those with mobility problems to plant and tend to flowers without having to bend down and can be comfortably accessed by wheelchair-users, bringing scent and colour to eye-level.  Non-toxic edible plants, herbs and vegetables make the garden a safe environment for all its users.

Planted tunnels and archways encourage movement around the garden to help residents take in all of its sensory elements. Interactive sound and water features provide a sense of calm and bird tables, nesting boxes and plants which attract wildlife all contribute to bringing the sensory garden to life.

Summer-houses, wooden seats or pergolas with seating underneath can provide shade from the sun, wind and rain and ensure gardens can be used all year round as well as providing light and shade for people with impaired vision.  Areas with outdoor furniture for group activities help complete the space.

Rainwater harvesting from water butts, composting, areas for growing vegetables, fruit and herbs to be used by the residents, greenhouses to take cuttings and grow seeds from last year’s plants, recycling and bio-diverse planting to attract wildlife, all contribute to the sustainability of the Sensory Garden.

The whole team here at Building Futures East are excited about this project and we look forward to sharing our photos and experiences with you soon.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you to create a Sensory Garden, please either give us a ring on 0191 263 2752, email us via the ‘Contact Us’ section of our website or email