16 June 2023

'Dementia is not scary': big message behind little community garden in Tuggeranong

| Travis Radford
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people standing in community garden

A new community garden, planted and maintained by Club Kalina’s members, is open to the whole Tuggeranong community. Photo: Club Kalina.

A new community garden in Tuggeranong features a lemon tree, two blueberry bushes, a few hundred Floriade bulbs and one big message about people with dementia.

The garden has been planted and maintained by members of Club Kalina, an early-onset dementia day club in Greenway, with funding support from Dementia Australia.

“We did have a smaller garden out there previously and we’ve just built a bigger one because it was so popular with our members,” program manager Mel Judd says.

“They sweep out there, they water out there, they plant the garden and they want to be part of it all.”

But Mel says the garden is more than just a place for its members to congregate and she hopes it will also shift public perceptions about dementia.

“We’re going to put some tables out there and just encourage the community to come and see that dementia is not scary, that people are just people,” she says.

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Mel says a barbecue and children’s games are also on the way and will be added to the garden before Floriade begins in September.

Club Kalina is also getting into the Floriade spirit early as one of 94 Floriade Community stops along the so-called Tulip Trail this year.

Club members planted 400 bulbs and 400 annuals and decorated the garden with ornamental mushrooms to create a magical, mystical feel.

“After Floriade finishes, we’ll make it into a garden where people can come and pick the products and use the space and come and sit and have their lunch there,” Mel says.

Children from local intergenerational groups have helped to plant and tend the garden from day one but Mel says the response from the greater public has also been “overwhelming”.

“We have people walk past daily and tell us how beautiful it is and say ‘thank you’ for how wonderful it is and how they’ve enjoyed watching it grow and being part of it,” she says.

“Our members are out there tending it every day, so then they get to talk to the community [and] they’re so proud of the work that they’ve done and that people are enjoying it.”

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Gardening is one of many activities offered to Club Kalina’s members, alongside woodworking, arts and crafts, singing, dance, yoga, arcade games and more.

“Here at Club Kalina, we have a different approach to care for people with dementia,” Mel explains. “We let them get back to their roots.

“They build things and they collect things and they make things and it’s just to help them feel useful and to be part of the community.”

Community members are invited to come and view Club Kalina’s new community garden in person at 167 Soward Way, Greenway.

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