When I m in the garden I can create my own paradise : Homes and gardens in later life

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1 When I m in the garden I can create my own paradise : Homes and gardens in later life Mark Bhatti Abstract This paper brings together recent work on later life and considers the effects of ageing in relation to participation and interest in gardening. Whilst there is considerable research and literature on issues such as health, housing, and social care, the significance of the garden in process of home-making is less well understood. Using qualitative data from the Mass Observation Data Archive, key physical, psycho-social processes that impact on the use of the garden and gardening activities are examined. It will be suggested that the garden can have major significance in the (re) creation of home in later life. Introduction Whilst there is considerable research and literature on ageing issues such as health, housing, and social care, the significance of the garden in relation to home-making in later life is less well understood. Even though the study of the ordinary, humble domestic garden has been neglected, it takes on extra importance at certain stages of the life course. This is likely to be so when we are children and try to find secret places to hide (in the gar/den away from the parental gaze), or with the arrival of our own children who need a space to play in the home environment. As the home becomes established, the garden takes on new roles and meanings for large numbers of households, as a site for family leisure, indicator of status and life style, and a space for entertaining. From middle age, gardening becomes a hobby that consumes considerable time and resources. There is usually creative, financial, physical, and emotional investment in the garden; it becomes a salient feature in people s lives. This peak of interest and activity in the garden contrasts starkly with changes latter phases of the life course. As the ageing body becomes subject to physical limitations, illness and disability, and/or where a spouse passes away. The house becomes unsuitable, and the garden a burden. For some the need to carry on gardening can be seen as a form of resistance to ageing a sign that despite the limitations of the ageing body, some form of indepen- The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, 02148, USA.

2 Homes and gardens in later life dence can still be maintained. But for others the runaway garden can be source of worry as it follows it owns agency to grow and change, and requires sustained effort to be maintained and looked after. This can be source of ontological insecurity, more often for women as they tend to live longer, and a feeling that one is not at home in the house that has been lived in for a long time. It is at this point that older people look for solutions; this either involves giving up, extra support in their existing home, or a house change, either to a sheltered scheme or a retirement home, often with no private garden. Inability to garden or the loss of the garden (if not adequately substituted) can be a form of bereavement leading to low morale. Elderly people may also become passive and reduce the level of physical activities (such as gardening) they engage in, even though they have more time on their hands. In this context how older people are supported in relation to gardening activities in their own homes, and how well retirement homes are designed and managed can be crucial in the health and well being of residents. The garden figures powerfully in the two phases of later life that gerontologists have now identified. Even though mapping actual years on to these phases is problematic, the first phase, often called the Third Age, equates to the period around retirement (55 to 75) which denotes independence and a full and active life. The second phase relates to older people over 75 (now labelled as the Fourth Age ) indicating relative dependency and living with one or more ailments. These two phases are inter-related, as activities, such as gardening, undertaken when a person is healthy flow into the desire to carry on working in the garden, even when living with a disability or relying on other people. This is where the relationship between the ageing body and the home and garden becomes disturbed, and the complexities of ageing are revealed (Hockey and James, 2003; Hallam and Hockey, 2001). The paper is in four sections: the first proposes an approach which emphasises understanding the home as a process of home-making. This conceptual framework enables us to see more clearly the importance of ageing on the social construction of home in which, it is argued, the garden is a significant and yet neglected site. The second section uses quantitative data from MINTEL and qualitative data from the Mass Observation Data Archive; it outlines the implications of an ageing population particularly in relation to leisure activities, and highlights the importance of the garden and gardening to older people. In the third section the effects of declining physicality on the (in)ability to garden and the negative psycho-social effects that this can have on the meanings of home are examined and illustrated. The fourth section discusses retirement and sheltered homes schemes in both private and public sectors in relation to design and management of communal garden spaces. In conclusion, three broad areas for further research and study are briefly presented. But first an outline of the primary data source. The primary data is drawn from two sources at the Mass Observation Data Archive based at the University of Sussex, UK. Mass Observation (MO) is a collection of writings from The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

3 Mark Bhatti a panel of volunteers who respond to Directives (sets of questions and/or prompts) issued two or three times a year on a range of themes; for example, the gulf war the pace of life well being growing older birthdays (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/library/massobs/). MO respondents remain anonymous and the researcher has minimum information of background of the person; usually gender, age, present/past occupation and town of residence. MO provides a wealth of autobiographical accounts of everyday life in Britain and is a rich source of in-depth material for social scientists to use (see Sheridan, 2002). There is considerable debate about the methodological and epistemological nature of MO; for example, the status of such autobiographical accounts in generating sociological theory generally, and the representativeness, accuracy and relevance of MO data (see Sheridan, 1993; Sheridan et al., 2000; Busby, 2000 for an overview). In order to use the data successfully it must be analysed using qualitative techniques and cannot not be seen as a conventional (positivist) survey. The panel of volunteer writers tends to contain more older than younger people, more middle class than working class; very few are from black and ethnic minorities, and respondents tend to live in the Midlands and South East of England. However, there are moves currently to spread the panel more widely (Sheridan, 2002). Within these limitations, and used with caution, the MO data can be extremely useful in understanding the leisure lives of older people. Indeed the fact that older people make up a majority of the panel gives it a strength, especially in exploring themes our theme of gardens in later life that is not easily examined with other types of data. Furthermore, the flexible nature of MO format is also another strength. For example, the questions/prompts are open ended and the writer is given the freedom to express themselves anonymously which results in an interesting variety in the responses and these can give new insights to the researcher (Bhatti, 2004). The narratives tend to be in the form of brief snippets of life stories and personal views on a particular topic, though the telling of a life history through a theme (such as the garden) is also a feature. The narratives presented in section three of this paper are taken from two Directives. In 1998 Mass Observation issued a Directive to 354 people entitled THE GARDEN AND GARDENING with 244 returns. The Directive asked respondents to write about significant personal themes that related to their gardens. These ranged from growing up/childhood memories; for example, particular plants that had special memories of family members/events. The questions related to how respondents learned to garden how and by whom ecological knowledge was passed on; what they liked/disliked about their gardens; who did what in the garden to see how specific tasks were related to garden/gender relations (see Bhatti and Church, 2000). These responses have a G prefix and then the MO number of the respondent. The second source of data is responses from the Growing Older Directive issued in the winter of 1992 with 429 responses out of a panel of 702; these are identified by a D prefix. Whereas the Gardening Directive specifically asked respondents to 320 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

4 Homes and gardens in later life write their garden stories, the Growing Older Directive was more general inquiring about assumptions of old age, subjective experiences of getting older, as well as gender differences, and positive and negative aspects of ageing. Indeed it is a sign of the significance of the garden in later life that many of the respondents in this Directive mentioned gardens and gardening without being prompted. The home, home-making and the garden I do not want to review the extensive sociological literature on home (see Mallet 2004 for a recent overview), but rather suggest that introducing the garden into these debates adds a new dimension to our understanding of the making and meanings of home (Bhatti, 1999; Bhatti and Church, 2000, 2001, 2004). A focus on the garden throws new light on recent debates about the notion of home for older people, and deepens our understanding of social, physical and cultural change in later life (Sixsmith, 1990; Gurney and Means, 1993; Askham et al., 1999; Percival, 2002). The garden provides us with a lens for understanding the creation of psycho-social worlds in and around the home that are an important part of the practice of everyday life in old age. This paper follows the phenomenological literature (see Dovey, 1985) in viewing home as being-in-the-world, (which is a form of emplacement or physical rootedness) from which the individual engages the outside world. Thus the physical and social are intertwined and the creation of home is embedded in daily lived experiences, against the backdrop of broad cultural meanings and processes (of the search for an ideal home for example). In this context I want to emphasise home-making, by which I mean the daily routines and activities, (necessarily embodied, gendered, and aged) rooted in time and space that contribute towards the creation and re-creation of the domestic sphere. Thus the home never is, it is always in the process of becoming ; an ongoing movement for a restful moment that rarely comes or is fleetingly experienced. This psychosocial approach enables us to consider materiality, sociality, and emotionality as key elements in the practice of everyday life. This mode of analysis also guards against romanticised and idealised views of home as haven or refuge or always offering ontological security (for a critical view see Chapman and Hockey, 1999; Morley, 2000). As feminists have shown, home space is a contested terrain, subject to power relations between men and women (Massey, 1994; Wardhaugh, 2003), as well as young and old (Sibley, 1995). These everyday processes of home-making interact with stages or movements in the life course, as well as with wider processes such as consumption patterns, cultural exchanges, and housing and labour markets. For the purposes of this paper I want to focus not only on the home that has to be re-created daily, but home as a restful moment that is a struggle to achieve at key points in the life course (Hockey and James, 2003). Indeed some older people tend to be caught up in the process of un-making home (note 1). That The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

5 Mark Bhatti is, when many of the fixed social and spatial locations their lives become dislocated and may even disappear quite suddenly, as in the case of the death of a spouse, or a forced move to a dwelling with no garden, thereby creating a feeling of ontological insecurity (Dupius and Thorns, 1998; Hockey et al., 2001). It is within this context then that the struggle for normality occurs, as revealed in the qualitative data below. The garden contributes to the psycho-social construction of home in a number of ways. These relate first, to home-making as embodied practice; that is, domestic routines of everyday life in an around the house are carried out by and through the gendered body. This allows us to see more clearly the home as action, as a series of bodily activities inter-acting with the physical dwelling. The physical changes that people encounter as they get older often means that the bodily activities required to create a home changes towards the latter phases of the life course. This could either be positive, as when gardening becomes a form of physical exercise; for example, digging out in the open air thereby resisting images of the inactive, docile or senile body. Or an indicator of declining physicality, as when a person is unable to dig as they used to; there is strained bodily movement and cultivation becomes painful. Thus the garden takes on special significance as embodied practices, such as bending, lifting, stretching etc, become harder to do. The garden becomes a difficult place to manage, and aches and pains after a few hours in the garden serve as a reminder of the embodiment of old age. But, as Poulsan (2005) suggests in relation to cultures of fitness, this desire to keep the body active reveals older person s determination to resist dominating ideologies through an exertion of personal agency. Secondly, (following Dovey, 1985) home-making involves a temporal order; that is, the past in the form of memories of family/kin, and objects from previous houses is an important aspect of creating a home in the present (Fairhurst, 2002). Memories play an important part in emotionality in later life (Hepworth, 1998) and influence the ways in which the home is constructed in the present and shapes desires for the future (Hockey and James, 2003). Indeed many of my respondents held quite strong memories of previous gardens, especially flowers and plants that were somehow significant markers of childhood adventures and reminders of family members, especially grandparents (see Bhatti and Church, 2001). As Game (1995) suggests (after Bachelard), it is through the notion of permanent childhood that houses (and gardens) live on in us and become significant in later life. The garden (through memory) then becomes a powerful symbol of family and home life in the past (Bhatti, 2003). Thirdly, there is a spatial ordering to home-making (a place called home ) operating at different scales through which domestic interiors, garden spaces and localities shape the experience of ageing. In recent years human geographers (Harper and Laws, 1995; Laws, 1997; Mowl et al., 2000) have pointed out that ageing bodies become associated with particular places. Thus older people tend to be identified with homespace, even though there are signifi- 322 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

6 Homes and gardens in later life cant variations of meanings and how this space is used in terms of class, race and gender. Even so, the garden in particular is closely associated with getting old, and as the MINTEL data below shows, it is seen as an older person s hobby carried out in a particular place, in and around the dwelling. Thus the garden is presented as a key site for ageing, where we can all grow old gracefully, pottering about, relaxing after a life time of hard work. Alternatively, as many of the respondents indicate below, the garden becomes a site of resistance to ageing, a place of struggle to maintain a sense of home, of self identity and independence. Fourthly, home-making through the life course also involves the construction and projection of identity and is often linked to status (Hockey and James, 2003). Again the garden, the way it looks, the objects that are displayed, can be an important source of self expression and reflection; it becomes a source of pride, a way of showing that the creative mind is still alive and the body is able to complete hard tasks. For many old people work in the garden comes to shape their subjectivities around notions of never giving up and independence. However, if the older person is unable to maintain the garden and looks uncared for, (especially the front), this may come to reflect (to passers by at least), the status of the person inside the house. It may also be the beginning of lowering esteem for the individual themselves. Finally, home-making involves a socio- cultural order including the notion of a shared existence with other members of the household and neighbours; this varies of course according to historical and spatial contexts. Thus domestic routines are shared and the garden contributes through being an object requiring work, and context for casual leisure with other family members. At times the (front) garden can facilitate social interactions, as people pass by and comment on the colourful display and creative design. Furthermore, garden talk links family members (most notably mothers and daughters see Sime, 1993), and the individual with neighbours across the garden fence. Plants and flowers from the garden are brought as gifts on special family occasions, and seeds and cutting passed around. The loss of the garden as a shared space (within a specific socio-cultural order) therefore can be a significant event with deep and far reaching consequences. Indeed several of my respondents highlighted the importance of the garden, especially when a spouse passed away as it became a powerful symbol of memory and loss, a living reminder of their partner (Hockey et al., 2001; Hallam and Hockey, 2001). To sum up, these five areas of home-making through embodied practice, memory, place, identity, and sociations provide a psycho-social conceptual framework for the discussion on ageing, leisure and the home garden. Leisure in later life Gerontologists now speak of an ageing population that is having profound social and economic impacts across the whole of society. This has meant that the The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

7 Mark Bhatti ageing process process in the housing context is itself being re-examined (DETR, 2001; Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2004a, 2004b). Alongside major demographic changes there has also been the growth of critical gerontology which provides a new perspective on later life (see Laws, 1995; Jameison et al., 1997; Phillipson, 1998; Featherstone and Wernick, 1995). This work not only challenges traditional academic discourses on ageing, but is also based on political actions to overcome ageism in numerous sites from welfare, health, to cultural representations (see Bytheway, 1995). One key area of study is the body, which problematises how older people are presented through appearance, images of bodily deterioration (Featherstone and Hepworth, 1991) physical frailty, and limited mobility, resulting in what has been identified as the underuse syndrome (Wearing, 1995). In extending this analysis I want to show the struggle between the active body and declining physicality in the context of the garden. Two trends set the context for our present discussion on homes and gardens. First, people are retiring in a much healthier state due to advances in health care, medicine, and nutrition coupled with an increasing interest in physical fitness mean that more and more people are reaching the retirement age in reasonable health. Thus as Blaikie (1999) emphasises, some older people may well be active and able to spend money on leisure and other consumption goods, particularly in the garden. These Third Agers are more likely to be home owners who will wish to stay in their homes as long as possible, and choose their life style options (such as leisure) more carefully. The gender dimensions of this have been examined elsewhere (Arber and Ginn, 1995; Bernard et al., 2000), but some of the implications of gender relations within the garden context are explored below. Second, people are living longer, but with declining physicality. Available data suggests that life expectancy for both men and women is increasing quite dramatically However, official data suggests that levels of ill health and disability are also a feature of the over 75 s (Department of Health, 2003). But as women out number men in this Fourth Age the impact of disabilities in old age are more likely to felt by women. They are also more likely to have to cope with a garden after the death of their partner. With a rise in the numbers of older people who are very old there is considerable debate about long term social and health care policies (Bytheway and Johnson, 1990; Tinker, 1997; Tanner, 2001). Ageing affects health and bodily activities unevenly across class, race, and gender (see special edition of Ageing and Society, September 2004, No. 5). Even so, there comes a point when the older person needs additional support, which is now usually delivered by family/friends or by paid carers in home, or alternatively in a sheltered setting. Ageing inevitably leads to a struggle to maintain the body active through leisure activities, often emerging as the need (and desire) to perform tasks in the garden; this can have quite profound effects on how older people feel about their home. In this context the leisure needs of older people, and how gardening can help to improve an older person s quality of life requires attention. 324 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

8 Homes and gardens in later life In the UK people as a whole spend more than half of their leisure time at home, especially those with young children and older people (ONS, 1998). The activities which older people pursue for recreation and leisure depend on the time and resources they have available (Tinker, 1997: 229). These in turn are influenced by money, where they live, family or other support, their race, class, and gender. Even though post-retirement is often presented as the age of leisure, there are some complex and variable processes at work which suggests that we need to view the leisure lives of older people in a less stereotypical way (Grayson, 1994; Berger et al., 2005). For some older people (with resources) it represents an opportunity to regain time and space to achieve life s ambitions and can be seen positively as a time for leisure. But for others long-term unemployment in late-middle age or retirement can also generate social, psychological and economic problems (Tinker, 1997). For women in particular leisure and retirement presents new challenges often not confronted by men, encapsulated in the notion women don t retire (Skucha and Bernard, 2000). Not only are there various circumstances of family, work and community life against which gendered leisure definitions are couched, but there may be withdrawal of many stable structures with the consequent possibility of new and optional patterns, all of which may be termed leisure, but have differing outcomes. This is why the popular idea of old age as the age of leisure is in fact far more problematic (more so for women), than the conception implies (Hendricks and Cutler, 1990). For example, the collection of work by Wimbush and Talbot (1988) on women s leisure suggests that activities are often carried out under severe constraints and patriarchal control, especially when the male partner has retired. But at other times leisure for women can offer a freedom from dominant ideologies of domestic labour, female sexualisation or motherhood (Wearing, 1996; Green et al., 1990), and in our case old age (Wearing, 1995). Older people reveal contrasting leisure patterns; for example, it is normal to see some form of decline in participation in physical activities with increasing age, but there are also differences in the type of recreation pursued, and men and women tend to have differing leisure lives (Midwinter, 1992; Paulson, 2005). It has been observed that leisure activities involving strenuous physical exercise such as sport, decline or cease altogether from around the age of 55 onwards (Kelly, 1993; Grant, 2001). In short, strenuous and strongly competitive activities begin to decrease, as so-called lifetime activities feature more prominently. Again there is a gender dimension to this as men spend more time at home which begins to impact on women s conception of their leisure space (Wimbush and Talbot, 1988). Even so, the data below suggest that for a majority of the 55+ population this means an increase in the time, resources and effort spent on the garden (MINTEL, 2001); I shall examine this in detail below. The extent to which increasing age involves some degree of disengagement from outside leisure activities previously undertaken, then those activities and relationships which remain are likely to become more significant and increasingly home based (Mowl et al., 2000, Sixsmith, 1990, Percival, 2002). The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

9 Mark Bhatti Today Britain has an unusually high level of houses with private gardens; nearly 84% of households have a garden and there are 20.2 million private gardens in the UK (MINTEL, 1999, 2003), the percentage of adults regularly participating in gardening activities rose from 42% in 1977 to just under half (49%) in 1996 (ONS 1998). One consumer survey into gardening claimed that just over half the adult population garden once a week and a third do some gardening every day (BBC, 1999). It is important to emphasise that access to a garden, and interest and participation in gardening varies according to a complex combination of factors such as tenure, dwelling type, locality, climate, income, age, ethnicity, family history, gender relations, and cultural exchanges. I do not have space to consider all of these here, and indeed for some areas such as ethnicity, leisure and gardens, the data is lacking. Therefore I will focus age and gender as two key factors that informs our present discussion. There is a marked and significant increase in gardening activities with the advancement of age. Recent surveys by MINTEL (1999, 2001, 2003) confirms that the attraction of gardening to older people. Table 1 sets out the rise of participation in gardening in relation to age contrasted with DIY (MINTEL, 1999: 57). Thus only 21% of year olds participated in gardening, compared with 61% of year olds. As can be seen, in contrast to pre-44 age group where participation is close to the national average (52% compared with national average 48%); the post 45 age groups has much higher participation rates (between 59% 61%). However the data also shows that for the 70+ group participation declines to 48%. We will look at why this should be so, and what the implications are for the well being of older age groups. Table 1 Comparative demographics of gardening and selected leisure pursuits, 1996 Gardening % DIY % All adults Men Women Source: MINTEL International Gardening Review April Base: 953 adults. 326 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

10 Homes and gardens in later life According to the quantitative data (MINTEL, 1999: 62 70) it is the older age groups (post-retirement), and especially women who have high rates of participation and sustained, close interest in the garden. Table 2 for example suggests that in relation to gender, more men than women (37% as opposed to 29%) try to keep the garden tidy but don t enjoy it, which suggests that men treat gardening as a chore (and a retirement home where the gardening is done for them may give them a sense of relief). However more women than men (26% compared with only 15%) said I love my garden and try to spend as much time as I can gardening which seems to suggest a much higher and deeper level of interest in the garden amongst women. Table 3 suggests that women are also more likely to be keen gardeners enjoying going to garden centres (54% compared with 32% of men) and watching gardening programmes on TV (49% compared with 39% of men). It is possible therefore to conclude that women are more likely to mourn the loss of a garden than men; they are also most likely to desire a garden and attempt to continue gardening for a long as possible. Interest in gardening changes with the family cycle (see Table 2); so for example, 38% in the post-family group said I love my garden and try to spend as much time as I can, compared with only 15% in the family group. The MINTEL data (Table 2) also indicates that age is an important factor in attitudes to gardening. For example, 25% of the age group said I love my garden... which increased to 41% for the age group, but declined to 35% for the 65+. Again this latter figure is an important indicator of changing house/physical/social conditions which will be examined in more detail below. Though figures by age and gender are not given together (this would give us a better picture of exactly who is most involved in the changes in later life), MINTEL (1999: 64) conclude, The keen gardeners, those who work hard to make their garden look good or love to spend as much time as possible in it, are far more likely to be women. There is also a very marked bias towards the older consumer especially those aged 55+. The recent data backs up the suggestion that it is third agers who are most active in the garden (MINTEL, 2003). For retired people (or where formal employment or house work decreases) work in the garden provides a number of benefits that not only result from physical activity, but can include intellectual and psychological gains, improved nutrition and social interaction (Glass et al., 1999; Di Peitro, 2001). I shall garden... The positive aspects of gardening can be further illustrated by respondents who wrote to the Mass Observation Project. The qualitative data reveals that for many the garden features strongly in their present (older) lives, as well as invoking fond memories of the past. The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

11 Mark Bhatti Table 2 Levels of interest in gardening, by demographics, lifestage, Mintel s Special Groups and ACORN categories, February 1999 Try keep garden Enjoy gardening but Enjoy spending time I work hard to Love my garden tidy but don t don t have much in garden but don t make my garden try spend as much enjoy it time/energy for it do much gardening look good time in it % % % % % All Men Women Children No children Lifestage: Pre-family Family Empty nester/no family Post family Source: MINTEL Gardening Review April Base: 953 adults. 328 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

12 Homes and gardens in later life Table 3 Further attitudes towards gardening, by demographics, lifestage, February 1999 I enjoy looking I enjoy watching I would do more I get/use around garden TV gardening gardening if I ideas from centres programmes had the time TV gardening % % % programmes % All Men Women Source: MINTEL International Gardening Review April Base: 953 adults. As far as back I can remember gardening has been a serious hobby of mine and wherever I have lived, I have grown and tended plants and gardens, some times with success, sometimes without.... and I still feel I am a beginner in horticulture. G: L1504, man Age: 72 Another man sent in a drawing, I am attaching a planned view as I recalled it, and these experiences at an early childhood are pretty well etched on my mind. G 381 man, aged 80. Memories of the home garden in childhood for both men and women was a strong and consistent theme in the data; suggesting perhaps that home as lived in the here and now was being informed by the past. Aside from memories, for many respondents activity in the garden was seen as one important part of growing old; for one women retirement presented her with a wealth of opportunities that were limited before, I shall travel as much as I can afford and explore England by bicycle in the summers. I shall garden, sew...try to cook more interestingly, help my daughter with her children. D: D996 woman, aged 65. For another it represented a recognition of limitations of the ageing body, but opened up new social horizons, I now have a small garden, by choice, I did not want too much work as I get older. I belong to a gardening group, which has a social connotations and learn The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

13 Mark Bhatti odds and ends from my friends. We also exchange surplus cutting, root, seeds and we visit open gardens. G: B89, woman, age: 67 One man revealed the pleasure he derived from gardening and his accomplishments, especially emphasising the social aspects, Last summer I packed into a flower bed at my front garden tobacco plants, petunias....there was not an inch of soil to be seen by mid June and the results were most rewarding in a round bed measuring 12 foot across. I had packed in 200 plants with enormous success. It was a bed of colour and I could see passers by admiring it....i have always tried to produce a colourful garden for passers by to enjoy, one that attracts their attention....my front garden has been my showpiece, whilst my back garden has been my workplace. G: L1504, man Age: 72 The garden is rarely seen as a part of home in the academic literature, but the following remarks illustrate how home space for older people includes plants both inside and surrounding the house, and working in the garden is important to feeling at home. The garden is essential to the well being of the house. If the garden is not neat and tidy the house looks depressed. G: W629, woman age: 70 Now I have only a very small garden but have lots of window boxes, large pots and troughs which I look after...specially the troughs at the kitchen window which brighten the day. I also have lots of plants indoors which I get lots of pleasure from. A house without plants is empty in many ways I think. I enjoy the garden without any hard work on my part, which is great. D: B736, woman, age: 78. The garden is also shared with other family members, sometimes with a spouse over a life time. Usually the garden belongs to one person who stamps their identity on it; however it can also be a joint enterprise. This man is now disabled and unable to contribute, but is quite happy to let his wife be the gardener, and clearly enjoys the results, I enclose a snap of a corner (circa the seventies) and it will be noticed that it is paved. This suited our advancing ages. As regards tending the plot, I am afraid owing to my disability I have to rely on my wife s assiduous expertise...which I lacked even in my more mobile days. As I mentioned at the outset my interest and knowledge of gardening is somewhat limited, but as my spouse is both expert and keen, I am only too happy to enjoy the results of her horticultural activities in my present restricted state. So you will understand my appreciation is mainly visual my wife has developed a number of household plants in pots and various window nooks which also add to the pleasure in the ability to appreciate the wonder and beauty and colour provided by floral display. G: M381, man, age: 80 To sum up, it appears that interest and participation in gardening increases with maturity; indeed it is strongest around the retirement phase and women 330 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

14 Homes and gardens in later life feature highly as keen gardeners. The picture painted by the quantitative data above is confirmed by the qualitative presented from the Mass Observation Archive. But this is not the end of the story; the data also suggest that participation and interest in gardening declines in later life after reaching a peak around the retirement period; this is a key feature of latter stages of old age. Thus it is important to note that not all associations with the garden are of a positive nature. Ageing in the garden This section considers how and why participation and interest in gardening declines after reaching a peak. There is considerable literature on the ageing body, and growing research on the problems of declining physicality. However, there are only scattered references to how these problems are manifested through the garden, and even less consideration of how this lack of physicality impacts on processes such as home-making. The physical, social and psychological changes that occur as a personages have been examined by gerontologists (Tinker, 1997; Jameison et al., 1997). In particular the impact of these changes for everyday living, levels of dependency, and the quality of life, have been extensively researched. However, the interaction between the changes that occur as a person ages and home-making activities and processes, especially as they relate to the garden have been given little attention. There is some quantitative evidence that as people get older they find gardening difficult and may loose interest after a time and then give up altogether. For example, MINTEL (1999) identify a category of wishful gardeners ; those who want to do more gardening but do not participate, either because of lack of time, knowledge or due to physical difficulties. Though it is not possible to isolate this latter response in the data ( I used to garden but now find it physically difficult ); it is interesting to note that the vast majority (69%) of the 65+ age group are wishful gardeners. It is safe to assume that lack of time or knowledge are not the key factors at play here; rather, declining physicality (or perceived limitations of the ailing body) may be a salient factor. Indeed MINTEL conclude The higher than average response rate among those in the older life stage may be due to low energy levels rather than time constraints (MINTEL, 1999: 63). In a review of the community care literature Ryan (1992: 12) identifies scattered references to the inability to garden and Tinker (1984: 72 3) also points to the impact of declining physicality and its impact on gardening. For example, 72% of elderly people living in their own homes received gardening help from relatives and/or neighbours. Indeed she highlights the inability to manage without support, and concludes Gardening, odd jobs in the house and housework where the tasks where more help was particularly wanted (1984: 73). The most recent research on older people s views of the provision of home care services by Raynes et al. (2001) points out that, along with help The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

15 Mark Bhatti with routine domestic tasks such as cleaning and washing, older people wanted to be able to control their immediate environment. For example, Untended bushes in the garden cut out light, as one man commented: if the privets were cut I could see out of the windows (p29). Raynes et al., conclude that older people viewed a good quality service as one in which carers.... look after the garden (p27). Percival (2002) reports that his interviewees had strong feelings about the garden, and indeed felt a loss if they could no longer continue gardening. For those not able to get any help the garden became a lost space, an eyesore covered with weeds; a powerful symbol of their loss of control over their own bodies and their lives. Indeed a future without a garden was seen as rather bleak, as one women commented it would be lovely if you get a place with your own garden...if they built places for old people like me, that have always had a garden, so that you could tend your own garden (quoted in Percival, 2002: 739). I just like to potter... Some of these of aspects of declining physicality and personal loss reveal that old people know and monitor their bodies and begin to adjust their gardening practices to carry one gardening as long as possible, I now have a small pocket size garden of my own as I realised that I could no longer deal with a large garden. G: A1646 woman, age: 70 We now live in a pensioners bungalow with a small garden, but age and physical condition does not allow me to do gardening...i enjoy watching birds, tree blossom. G: B36, woman age: 84 I am now 81 and arthritic, but I can still potter or just sit under the chestnut tree with sewing or a book and but again may be just dozing. G: B1261, woman, age: 81 I am fortunately fit and active with many interests, I live alone but never lonely. However I am slowing down and can t move about as I used to. I love gardening and have a large garden, and have to work in short shifts. (orginal emphasis) G: D2404, woman, age: 76 Death, memory and bereavement (see Hallam and Hockey, 2001) are also themes that flow through the garden. Battey s research into meanings of home for older people highlights the significance of the garden and the approach of death, as in the case of Eric who was in eighties and wanted to be interviewed in his garden, (The house)...its just four walls to me, providing a shelter. When I m in here (the garden) I can be anybody and anything. I can do what I want, sing what I want. It s lovely...when I m in the garden I can create my own paradise, I 332 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

16 Homes and gardens in later life surround myself with flowers and vegetables and then I know I m at home....i come here to escape all the pressures of life...oh it provides me with a sense of relief. I think I now I rely on it even more for a sense of peace. (my emphasis, Battey, 1999: 29) Where the garden is a joint effort and shared it can also be an important place in cases of bereavement. One women kept the fruits of her husband s gardening in the freezer, When I married just before the last war, our bungalow was built in an orchard.... we made our first garden from scratch.... flowers, vegetables and later chickens while the children were small. We remained there until retirement by which time the garden was our main hobby. Unfortunately my husband just died aged 85, but he was very happy in the garden...in the freezer I have sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli that he grew. G: B1261, woman, age: 81 Hockey et al. (2001) highlight a similar bereavement story of Keith who... had nurtured the potted Devonshire violets which his wife had grown, a powerful reminder of the vitality of her remembered physical presence in the home. (p752) Another woman though seemed to have been excluded from the garden and was happy to give her husband s plants away, My late husband was a keen gardener, in fact he lived in the garden....unless the weather was very bad he went out everyday. He grew lots of veg. Planted fruit trees...also geraniums all round the window sills...my husband left 86 pots of geraniums when he died. Sadly I couldn t keep them, but did give some away. G: B86 woman, age: 78 These extracts also indicate that gender relations in the domestic sphere impact directly on the garden (and vice versa), and one woman summed up a key difference, Generally I feel men age earlier than women, but is that because at 65 they tend to stop work and just watch the world go by, whereas women usually have a home to run. D: D1685 woman, age: 63. This women was quite determined be active and to carry on gardening even though she was now less mobile. These gender differences need further study, as roles developed in and around the home over the life course can come to have significant impacts in relation to the garden, especially in after the death of a spouse (see Hockey and James, 2003; Hockey et al., 2001). How the garden is seen and used by both partners evolves over time and reveals gendered power relations (see Bhatti, 2004) which can influence the making (and unmaking) of home in later life. There are also psychological effects. The frustrations that may be experienced with regard to the garden can, like the unmanageability of the home, The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

17 Mark Bhatti be acutely depressing and enforce feelings of powerlessness as others may need to be employed to carry out tasks once carried out by oneself with ease. The garden therefore does have a dark-side to it. As frustrations arise they may impact badly on the long-felt ontological security of home, and give rise to the feeling of not being at home, as the reality of being unable to manage without help emerges. This can be source of worry and stress; a feeling that the house is too big, and the garden is a lost space. It is at this stage, when older people decide that there needs to be a change in their housing situation, and they may move to a retirement home setting. Creating paradise? Gardens and gardening in sheltered housing Some gerontologists have concluded that this transition, from ones own home to an institutional setting, no matter how home like can produce acute social and psychological problems as well as a sense of loss, withdrawal, and even depression (Bytheway and Johnson, 1990; Butler et al., 1983; Tinker, 1997; Fairhurst, 1999). There is not enough space in this paper to adequately evaluate the garden dimension of institutionalised homes for older people, so a brief outline emphasises some of the key issues. These are highlighted in a survey of 146 older people living in retirement homes in the private sector (English Courtyards, 1999). The survey reveals that people were quite aware of their physical limitations as they got older. Between 60 65% indicated that they had reduced mobility, less strength and less energy. Interestingly only 17% said they had reduced motivation; this further backs up the MINTEL data presented above which suggests that there is considerable desire to garden in later life even though ability to garden may decline. Furthermore, the survey suggest that very few wanted a small lawn (20%) ie low maintenance green space; they actually wanted raised flower beds (43%) small border (50%) and easy watering device (53%) which seems to indicate that people are well aware of their physical limitations (in that they monitor and know their own body) but they do not necessarily want to completely give up all physical activities such as gardening. What is even more disconcerting however is the lack of awareness of tools and aids to make gardening easier; for example, only about a third knew out about lightweight spades and long handled shears that could lighten the load and minimise physical stress and even fewer owned these type of tools. The study carried out by Stoneham and Jones (1997) also highlights some of the problems that people encounter when they move from their own home to a social housing sheltered scheme where there were landscaped grounds (usually a communal outside space). They interviewed 47 residents, as well as asking a total of 100 to fill in a survey questionnaire to generate quantitative data. The results suggest that the main use of garden space was passive, and most people did not actually carry out any gardening activities. But comparing the activity profile before and after the move to the sheltered scheme 334 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

18 Homes and gardens in later life was revealing; whereas approximately 85% of respondents did some gardening in their previous home this had declined dramatically to about 15% in the sheltered home! Why was gardening being abandoned so quickly and comprehensively? Poor health or too old were frequently mentioned. But there is a complex interplay here between their own perceptions of declining physicality, and what society expects older people to do and how to behave. Within the management regime of the housing scheme behavioural norms can exclude or suppress some leisure activities (eg. gardening) and encourage others (eg. bingo). Stoneham and Jones (1997: 22) point out that: Although these figures reflect changes which accompany ageing, and which may be motivating factors for the move to sheltered housing, they also raise important questions about peoples opportunities, expectations, and aspects of selfidentity when they decide to move to retirement accommodation. Furthermore, even though participation in gardening had declined this did not mean that the grounds were not valued; indeed all but one of the residents interviewed valued them highly. But there was some concern on the way they were designed and managed, with little opportunity for active use. Finally, Stoneham and Jones highlight the different values that men and women have of the gardens. Interestingly in most categories (eg a topic of conversation a place to be creative a means of keeping fit a place to socialise ) women had higher ratings than men. Where men scored higher was in seeing the garden as an important image of your home and a duty an expense. The transition to a retirement home setting can be a life changing experience and yet some of the activities that can ease the transition (such as gardening) were abandoned. Thus Stoneham and Jones (1997: 25) conclude, The use of grounds and gardens is rarely seen as a necessity, despite the potential for encouraging mental and physical activity or fostering social contacts. There are a few good examples that can be presented to highlight the opportunities for improving the health and well being of older people. For example, the horticultural therapy movement (particularly in the USA and increasingly in the UK, see the work of THRIVE has emphasised the health gains (both physical and mental) and social benefits that can be achieved if older people are given access to appropriate garden space and supported in their gardening activities. Thus working within the horticultural therapy framework Ryan (1992) sets out in detail gardening activities that can provide health and social gains if they are managed appropriately. In the social housing sector, a few housing associations are promoting gardening clubs and visits to garden centres, but these rely on the interest and enthusiasm of the manager of the scheme and are therefore ad hoc arrangement that can disappear quite quickly. At the moment there is very little by way of guidance from the Housing Corporation or the National Housing Federation as to how The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

19 Mark Bhatti housing associations can promote gardening in their schemes (see Stoneham and Thoday, 1996). In the private retirement homes sector, the picture is mixed; generally there is very little in the way of sustained and focused support for gardening. Garden landscape are generally for passive use. However, English Courtyards have gone further than any one by providing some support for individual gardening, as well as space adjacent to the house/flat for the residents to own use. Indeed in their survey mentioned above, 77% of respondents said the garden design and management was a factor in their decision to move to an English Courtyard scheme (English Courtyards, 1999). Having a small patch to cultivate was highly valued, as well as the knowledge that for heavier tasks help was readily available. This provided an essential link between the private and the public which is often missing in retirement home schemes. However, these innovations are the exception rather than the rule in both private and social sector developments, but the illustrations above show that, with the right information, policies and practices in relation to gardening, it is possible bring substantial benefits to the older population. Whereas considerable resources and effort have been targeted at helping older people to stay put and health and social care services are now generally being delivered in their own homes; the role of supported gardening in positive experiences of ageing has not been studied. It is worth emphasising that ignoring the garden can have a detrimental social and psychological effect upon older people. Social gerontologists have emphasised the isolating nature of later life, and there is growing evidence that social contact declines along with increasing mental health problems in old age (Tinker, 1997). The embarrassment of an unkempt garden may reinforce the belief that I can t cope, thus lowering the self-esteem of the owner or feelings of dependency. Many changes occur as a person ages, changes which impact on a persons physical, emotional and cognitive abilities as well as their societal roles. Gardening can however be used in a positive therapeutic and stimulating way to improve the condition of older people (Ryan, 1992). Conclusion We have looked at the problems and opportunities posed by the garden and gardening in later life. The data in section two suggests that during the Third Age the garden becomes a significant leisure activity for many, especially women. However, problems in looking after the garden emerge in the Fourth Age as physicality declines or there is sudden change in circumstances such as the death of a partner. The private, domestic garden does not figure highly in national social and housing policies. Indeed it would be accurate to conclude that generally gardening is not a theme that has been incorporated into the health and well being of older people. It has not been systematically and 336 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 2006

20 Homes and gardens in later life extensively researched in the UK and there remain significant gaps in our knowledge. Thus questions remain as to precisely how much the garden is valued; what kinds of opportunities and problems it poses; and what kinds of benefits supported gardening can bring to older people. The first set of key questions for further study relate to the value that the garden and gardening has for individuals in later life. How does home-making in later life relate to the garden? Certainly the data presented above suggests that older people value it highly as a part of home, and there is great motivation to carry on gardening in the face of great difficulties. As data above shows gardening participation declines after reaching a peak: why should this be so? Is this due to genuine declining physicality or reduced interest? Certainly none of the respondents above had lost interest in their garden; indeed it was a source of great pride and creativity. The embodied, nature of gardening therefore relates directly to their physical ability to carry on as before, sometimes as a form of resistance to ageing itself. However we know very little about how exactly the ageing body limits gardening activities, thereby creating a struggle for health and well being. More often it is the difficulties of their housing situation (lack of support in their own home, or unsupported gardening in retirement home settings) that is determinant in older people loosing the ability to garden. Indeed Stoneham and Jones (1997: 23) highlight similar areas for further research, when they conclude,...an important area for future study would be to clarify which activities reflect changing perceptions and revised expectations, and could therefore be maintained by inputs from outside, as opposed to those which reflect genuine (physical) difficulties. The second area of requiring research is evaluating retirement home schemes from the gardening perceptive, especially using the frameworks developed by the horticultural therapy movement. Currently there appears to be considerable variation in both design and management, and whether, and to what extent residents are able to engage in gardening activities at all. The preliminary impression is that there is varied practice, with a few excellent schemes, but generally there is substantial room for improvement. One key problem is that this area lacks systematic and properly researched information to identify and evaluate which schemes directly engage elderly residents to help improve their health and well being. In short, which types of garden design and management work best, and why? The third area for research is measuring and capturing the benefits to housing, health and social care providers, and the wider society of improvements in the quality of life of older people. This is a much more difficult task and requires a sustained level of resources and input from funders. Even so, we can highlight some of the benefits to all concerned as well as emphasising the specific areas where money and effort can be saved due to improved health and well being due to gardening. Conceptually it has been argued that it more useful to view home as a dynamic set of interactions, a psycho-social process of home-making in which the body, time and memory, place, identity and sociations intertwine in spe- The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review

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