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Gardening and the social engagement of older people

Sharon Middling (PhD Student at the Research Institute for Life Course Studies, Keele University, Keele, UK)
Jan Bailey (PhD Student at the Research Institute for Life Course Studies, Keele University, Keele, UK)
Sian Maslin‐Prothero (Professor of Ageing and Health at the Research Institute for Life Course Studies, Keele University, Keele, UK)
Thomas Scharf (Professor of Social Gerontology at the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, NUI Galway, Galway, Ireland)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 16 September 2011




This paper identifies ways in which community action can enhance the quality of life of older residents and reports specifically on four community gardening initiatives developed with older people living in disadvantaged communities in Manchester.


The Community Action in Later Life – Manchester Engagement (CALL_ME) project used an action research approach to engage older people. Older people and other stakeholders were actively involved in designing, planning and implementing the projects.


Drawing on a range of qualitative data, the paper provides evidence of how older people can be actively engaged in community projects, and explores the benefits of involvement including: enhanced well‐being, and increased socialisation, learning and empowerment. The challenges faced by the older people are also reported which include maintaining interest, recruiting new members and needing external support.

Research limitations/implications

The paper also reports the implications for practice, discussing how gardening initiatives can involve and benefit older people and the wider community and the value of an action oriented approach in disadvantaged communities. Recommendations are made regarding ensuring sustainability of such projects by providing education and training to enhance participants' skills and build their confidence.


Whilst recognising the problems associated with living in disadvantaged communities, the CALL‐ME project takes a new approach and moves the focus to ways in which older people can become engaged in and benefit from community action, and empowered to sustain the projects they develop.



Middling, S., Bailey, J., Maslin‐Prothero, S. and Scharf, T. (2011), "Gardening and the social engagement of older people", Working with Older People, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 112-122.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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