NParks launches Singapore’s first therapeutic garden in a public park to provide respite and improve mental well-being
14 May 2016
14 May 2016 — The National Parks Board (NParks) today launched the Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark, Singapore’s first therapeutic garden in a public park. Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, officiated the launch and marked the occasion by planting a Yellow Champaka tree (Magnolia champaca) at the new Garden.
The 850sqm Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark is the first of its kind in a public park in Singapore – established based on best practices and evidence-based design principles relating to therapy for improving mental well-being. Developed by NParks in consultation with Professor Kua Ee Heok from the Department of Psychological Medicine, National University Health System (NUHS), it is designed to contribute to the well-being of all visitors, including those with conditions such as dementia.
Reference for future therapeutic gardens
Designing parks for the ageing population was one of the ideas raised by participants at the SGfuture engagement series. This new therapeutic garden will aid in the successful ageing of Singaporeans and also serve as a reference for future therapeutic gardens across Singapore. NParks has plans to develop a network of these gardens in more parks such as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. This network of therapeutic gardens is also one of the initiatives under the Action Plan for Successful Ageing report announced by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing last year.
Beyond the elderly, all visitors will be able to enjoy these therapeutic gardens in our public parks as they are designed to bring about restorative effects to our mental well-being.
Design guidelines of Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark
The Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark was developed based on research in environmental psychology, which includes the Biophilia Hypothesis, Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Reduction Theory. According to the research, when people find themselves amidst Nature, they are sub-consciously directed away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This helps to relieve stress and brings about restorative effects to their mental well-being.
The Garden comprises a Restorative Zone and an Activities Zone with different benefits for visitors. The Restorative Zone provides respite and a holistic rehabilitative environment for conditions such as dementia. Examples include easily recognisable landmarks, seats facing different directions to provide various views, and the profusion of plants with colour, texture and scents to stimulate senses. These are complemented by an Activities Zone where therapeutic programmes can be conducted. This includes an area specifically designed for gardening with moveable raised beds, customised benches for potting and convenient access to water. The design makes it more convenient for the elderly and wheelchair users to participate in gardening, which improves their health and mental well-being.
Facilities also include gerontology exercise equipment suitable for seniors. NParks is also working with the Alzheimer’s Disease Association to develop and conduct customised therapeutic programmes at the Garden.
CT-Art Creation Pte Ltd and Soroptimist International of Singapore (Garden City) generously contributed two pieces of gerontology exercise equipment and a sculpture respectively.
Collaborations with other organisations
Beyond public parks, NParks is partnering with the Ministry of Health, as well as exploring partnerships with other agencies such as the Housing Development Board, to develop therapeutic gardens in their premises. NParks will support them by developing a set of guidelines and design principles for therapeutic gardens. NParks’ Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology will also organise seminars and workshops as part of efforts to strengthen local expertise and capability in horticultural therapy.
Research programmes on benefits of greenery
The Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark will also be used for research studies on horticultural therapy. This will strengthen NParks’ efforts in conducting research programmes to quantify the benefits of greenery on the different segments of Singaporeans. The studies will aid in enhancing the design of future therapeutic gardens and horticultural therapy programmes.
Ongoing studies include Effects of Horticultural Therapy On Asian Elderly’s Mental Health, a joint research with NUHS on the effects of horticultural therapy on the mental health of seniors. Interim findings indicate that horticultural therapy brings about improvement in the psychological well-being of seniors. The results demonstrated that participants in the active horticultural therapy group report a higher life satisfaction and feel more socially connected when compared to those in the control group. These preliminary findings have demonstrated positive outcomes. In particular, participants in the active horticultural therapy group have lower levels of the proteins interleukins (IL)-1β and IL-6, which are linked to depression.