The Pilot Newspaper – Sunday, August 1, 2010

Since the residents of the new Penick Village Garden Cottage moved in on May 3, they are simply blooming just like the beautiful rose bushes lining the walkway to their front door.

To celebrate the onset of summer, in June the residents and staff planted their own herb garden with some help from Gulley’s Garden Center. Just like home, the residents of the Garden Cottage will be assisting in tending to their herb garden planters and harvesting the fruits of their efforts for use in their meals made right in their own kitchen of their house. This is one of several household activities that the residents have enjoyed as part of their transition to life in their new home.

“Part of being a village is partnering with local community businesses to achieve our goal of deinstitutionalizing our residents’ living experience,” says Mary Petersen, community relations and development director. “We are so grateful to Megan Hunt and Susan Wilson from Gulley’s Garden Center for coming to assist us in creating the Garden Cottage potted herb garden. Their donation of the herbs, flowers, dirt and their own personal time they took to help the residents plant was just invaluable.”

“As soon as we saw the Garden Cottage and heard about this new small-home concept, I knew we had to help,” said Megan Hunt, Gulley’s manager, as she ­introduced herself to five of the Garden Cottage residents who were helping plant.

Most of the herbs planted can be used in sauces and recipes, which is perfect, because right now the plants must continue to be picked before they go to seed. The additional flower planters that Gulley’s also created are ideal for the patio because they have a large center plant along with cascading plants and colorful annual flowers that can easily be exchanged with other colorful flowers as the seasons change, yet still keep the overall manicured look of the planter.

The most wonderful thing is that the Garden Cottage environment is conducive to allowing residents regular everyday opportunities that many of us enjoy doing at home, such as planting. It’s just one example of how Penick Village is moving toward a more deinstitutionalized living experience for all their residents. This year several residents on campus have planted potted herbs and vegetables, like tomatoes, on their patios and decks and are using them in their own cooking as well. The Garden Cottage residents are just joining in by planting their own potted herb garden to cultivate for their own cooking too.

So how are the residents adjusting to life in their new home?

“It’s been amazing to simply watch the relationships grow among the residents,” says Maggie Noel, director of nursing. “Folks that didn’t come out and talk in the beginning are now more fully engaged and have brightened up so much. Some of the feedback I’ve received from the residents are quotes such as, ‘I can’t believe I actually got to cook my own breakfast today,’ or ‘I can just sit in my room and look out the door and see people. I didn’t realize how lonely I was when I was living in my apartment.’ And one of my favorite comments from a resident’s family member was ‘I never would have believed my mom would be so happy she actually cried the day we moved her in.’”

The Garden Cottage, Penick Village’s first small-home model of care, is for 10 assisted-living residents and has been built completely debt-free through the kind generosity of many donors. Plans are now in progress to eventually replace the entire skilled-nursing and rehabilitation areas at Penick Village with additional ­cottages similar to this one.

If you would like information on how you can support the Garden Cottage Project at Penick Village, please contact the Development Office at (910) 692-0428, says Petersen.