Benefit nature, benefit self, & benefit others: older adults and their volunteer experiences of engagement in a conservation themed urban park

Christie, Mark (2017) Benefit nature, benefit self, & benefit others: older adults and their volunteer experiences of engagement in a conservation themed urban park. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 27 (2). pp. 19-37.

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Abstract

This paper, utilizing a qualitative methodology, offers further insight into the concept of restorative natural environments by investigating the experiences of five retired and semi- retired volunteers (mean age 65.6 years) involved with a community conservation themed project in an urban park in the north of England, United Kingdom. The volunteers were purposely selected based on their long-term engagement with the specific conservation project. The study was comprised of data collected through interviews and a focus group in the park setting at various timelines throughout the project. Thematic analysis identified three overarching themes: perceived health benefits from participation in a nature based activity; self-reported enhancements to personal, social and community capital; and motives for initial engagement and sustained participation. Various factors relating to how volunteer participation was sustained were highlighted, including: empowerment, social connectedness, access and purposefulness, as well as a non-pressurized activity— with implications for the design of similar community-based ‘green exercise’ interventions. Findings further suggest that involvement in conservation-themed volunteering appears to bestow ‘green transformational’ outcomes for the individual, group and community, manifested by perceived enhancements to personal, social and community capital, as well as overall health and well being. Green transformations induced positive outcomes, such as assisting individuals make the transition into retired life; establishing new social networks; enhancing mental health; contributing to the renewal of the park; and the establishment of a new ‘Friends of the Park’ group to help fund raise for future small-scale projects. Projects and initiatives of this ilk may therefore be beneficial in respect of promoting public health improvements for individuals attracted to more unorthodox and natural approaches.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture
Publisher: American Horticultural Therapy Association
ISSN: 1088-3487
Departments: Sports and Physical Activity
Depositing User: Mark Christie
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2019 14:54
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2019 15:00
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4857

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