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Wheelchair Accessible Gardens

Five Tips for a Wheelchair-Accessible Garden

Residents pose next to wheelchair accessible gardens at Grace Living Center Norman.Studies have shown interacting with nature may help improve well-being, stimulates memory, decrease stress and offer other vital benefits. Unfortunately, seniors and those with disabilities aren’t often physically able to access or enjoy time outdoors. 

In this blog we’ll discuss five tips for creating a wheelchair accessible garden and share how our Grace Living Centers home in Norman has implemented an accessible design for their residents.  

“Oh they’re wonderful! They’re just the right height. You can look and not have to get all dirty,” said resident, Babutte Blanchard.

Wheelchair Accessible Gardening

Ways to make nature more accessible include creating raised beds and incorporating hanging baskets, table planters or pots. From planters to octagonal gardens and U-shaped gardens, the possibilities are endless.

By bringing the garden off the ground, there is less need for bending, stooping and reaching, allowing for more enjoyment of the beauty of nature. 

Tips and Tricks

  1. Proper Height and WidthWhen accessing a garden from a seated position, it’s best to have the soil level 24 – 36” from the ground. This height level diminishes arm fatigue from reaching lower or higher to water or tend to plants. It’s important to note that if individuals choose to grow vegetables, they should consider a lower soil level, because vegetable plants grow taller and picking the produce will be more difficult. 

    The width of the garden should be 4 feet wide if the bed is accessible from two sides and 2 to 3 feet wide if the bed is only accessible from one side. 
  2. A new wheelchair-accessible planter decorated by residents at Grace Living Center Norman.Planter PositioningWhen choosing where to place your wheelchair-accessible planter, take into consideration the following: its proximity to a wide door, if it can be accessed from multiple sides, if it has 3 to 4 feet in between planters for wheelchair accessibility and whether it has at least six hours of sunlight per day. 
  3. Side PositioningAlthough some prefer to build their wheelchair-accessible gardens with front-facing access, it’s typically best to create it with side position access. Doing this prevents a person’s wheelchair from moving backwards or forwards, and limits extended uncomfortable reaching and bending at the waist. 
  4. Tool Positioning Keep the necessary tools close at hand by placing hooks on the sides of the planters to store spades, watering cans or garden gloves.
  5. Placement of PlantsNo matter what you choose to plant in a wheelchair accessible garden, it’s best to place taller plants towards the center and back of the planter. From there, plants should be placed in descending height order towards the front and sides of the planter for easy access. 

The Gardens at Grace


Team members take a photo break during construction.Our Grace Living Centers home in Norman knew the challenges our residents faced when wanting to get outdoors and garden, so our staff built wheelchair-accessible flower beds. To learn more about the home’s flower beds and how they were created, watch the video below.

With a little care and a whole lot of love, the Norman home’s gardens will flourish in the coming months. If reading those tips and tricks has you buzzing to create your own wheelchair accessible garden, here is a handy how-to video from This Old House.



To Our Team Members: Thank You!

To say our staff is the backbone of our facilities is an understatement. They’re the lifeline of our organization and continuously strive to deliver the top notch care our patients require. Our staff deserves thanks daily for the great work they do which is why we fully embrace National Nursing Home Week each year as a time to publicly celebrate them and our residents.

Observed annually during the second week of May, National Nursing Home Week is a time for staff, patients, families and friends to reflect on the hard work and dedication our staff provides to our residents. The American Health Care Association (AHCA) launched the first National Nursing Home Week in 1967.  This year’s observance was commemorated May 8 to 14 as our centers celebrated with various events and activities for residents. 

Another way we celebrate our staff is by helping them grow in their careers. Here at Grace Living Centers, we offer an Accumulated Education Fund and scholarship program to help improve the care our staff provides by attracting and retaining top talent. By continuing their education and setting advanced educational goals, our staffs improves their skills, knowledge, and commitment to long-term care and are able to offer top-notch care to all residents. We believe that “advancement opportunities for employees are important to the individual and important to the communities we serve.”

Our Accumulation Education Fund is available and all employees are encouraged to attend educational courses or seminars related to their field of work. Employees who take part in the fund will be reimbursed for classes taken. 

Finally, our scholarship program is one we are extremely proud of. This program encourages staff to progress in their careers by obtaining their RN, LPN, CMA certification, food service supervisor certification and social service/activity director certification.

From all of us at Grace Living Centers, thank you to our staff for the work they do day in and day out. 

If you see any of our staff, make sure to give them a high five, pat on the back, hug or a thank you for their dedication and service to our residents.


Coping with Grief as We Age

As we commemorate the twenty-first anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, we recognize both the victims and the survivors. For those who have carried these memories – now more than two decades – the experiences and accompanying levels of suffering, acceptance and resolution vary widely. Traumatic events such as the bombing, and more common challenges many of us face such as job loss, health crises and the loss of loved ones and friends, call upon a skill set that most of us don’t develop intentionally but which does play a key factor in our ability to cope and live healthier lives. Research suggests that how we deal with stressful situations, including grief, may be linked to better health later in life.

Low coping skills can impact later-in-life cognitive function

A recent study surveyed 3,126 participants. They were surveyed first at 25 years of age and again when they reached 50 years old. The study found that people who had higher levels of hostility and poor coping skills as 25-year-olds did not do as well on memory and thinking tests at 50 compared to those who had better levels of coping skills earlier in life. 

When both groups of people were asked to recall a list of 15 words, the more hostile group remembered 0.16 fewer words than those who were less hostile earlier in life. Those who could not cope well earlier in life remembered 0.30 fewer words than those who had higher coping skills.   

According to an article written by the Express Tribune, study author Lenore Launer from the American Academy of Neurology, stated: 

A situation everyone faces is suffering the loss of a loved one. Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say and do to help a person through the grieving process. 


Tips to comfort a grieving loved one 


  1. Listen & be genuine in your conversations: There is a tendency when we see someone hurting to want to fix it. Typically, though, the person hurting just wants to be comforted and listened to. You should acknowledge their grief and let them know that you're there for them. When a person is grieving, they may need to talk about it, as it will help them to process and heal.   
  2. Be patient in the healing process: When a friend or family member loses someone who is close to them, you can expect change. Every person grieves in a different way and there is no time frame for the completion of the process. They may want to refrain from some social activities or other normal routines. This is normal and should be expected. 
  3. Ask them how you can help: There are many ways you can come alongside of your family member or friend that is grieving. One of the ways is to offer practical assistance. You can ask to help with light housework, running errands or by lending a helping hand with making meals.   


Coping with Grief

Oklahomans remember the tragedy that hit our state twenty-one years ago: the Oklahoma City bombing. Many Oklahomans were affected by this heartbreaking act of terror. Grace Living Centers has a resident who was an eyewitness of the event. Watch the video below to see her story and learn how she copes with having been a witness to such traumatic history.

There’s no special formula to take away emotional pain caused by life’s unfortunate situations but if you apply these article tips in the midst of hard times, it will help you to be able to better deal with the storms of life.


The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Click to enlarge graphicYou’re probably familiar with the notion that consistent exercise is linked to a healthy, long life. But you should also know that continued education throughout your life is just as important.

Research has shown that after 30 years of age, the brain naturally begins to deteriorate.  However, you can counteract and slow down the process by staying mentally fit. Research suggests one of the best ways to do this is to educate yourself by learning something new.

Lifelong Learning is Proven to Increase Health

Lifelong learning advocates agree that later in life learning can help older people to stay healthy, active and engaged. In 2008, the Harper Study found that brain capacity is closely related to the longevity of a person’s life. 

According to The MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging, one of the three attributes that contributes to healthy aging is high mental function, which directly relates to lifelong learning. To determine this, they followed 1,000 older people for 8 years and noted the factors that helped them age successfully. Education was found to be the strongest predictor of sustained mental function in later life.

The Rush Memory and Aging Project also surveyed 1,200 older people and found that cognitively active seniors who were the average of 80 were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity.

Benefits of Lifelong Learning

  1. Helps natural skills come easier - When you reach retirement, you have the time to discover the natural skills you never knew you had. Learning these new skills helps your brain to further develop your natural abilities.
  2. Brings your mind to a whole new level - Learning in a social setting provides older adults opportunities to be able to bounce new ideas off one another in ways that cause growth.
  3. Helps you make new friends - Spending time in a classroom with a group of people learning together provides a perfect atmosphere to grow and strengthen your relationship.
  4. Provides enrichment and personal growth - Setting a goal to learn something new and moving towards that goal will bring you satisfaction and a sense of personal accomplishment.
  5. Contributes to a healthy memory - Lifelong learning keeps your mind sharp, increases self-confidence and studies have shown a continued education is linked to a healthier memory.

VIDEO: Residents at Grace Living Center Norman Learning Spanish

Language learning is linked to delaying Alzheimer's

Continued education in and of itself has many benefits, but language learning has its own set of benefits that provide cognitive health benefits.

The Alzheimer's Association stated 5.4 million Americans were currently living with this disease. However, scientific studies have found that learning a second language can help delay the onset.

Studies show that learning a new language, even at an older age, will exercise your brain. This may hold off some of the effects related to aging. Consistent language learning helps the brain react faster, giving it a greater ability to multi-task and make straightforward decisions. 

At Grace Living Centers, we realize the importance of lifelong learning. Grace Living Center Norman started a weekly Spanish class taught by a CMA/CNA who is originally from Cuba. Watch the accompanying video about her story and the impact the class is having on our residents.

Lifelong Learning in Oklahoma

Sarah Allard, Marketing Coordinator for the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative (OHAI), describes lifelong learning as activity in which "a person of any age keeps the mind and body engaged by actively pursuing knowledge and experience."  OHAI has outreach education specialists teaching classes that promote lifelong learning in various communities across Oklahoma.  OHAI can present on a number of topics to civic, community and faith-based groups. For more information, please contact OHAI at 1-855-227-5928 or send email to ohai@ouhsc.edu.

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