Since 2002, the Senior Habitat Gardening program has provided this experience to over 2000 individuals at 50 different senior facilities in the Denver metro area. Over the course of a year, participants learn about habitat gardening, engage in horticulture therapy, and enjoy the butterflies and blooms. Participants receive social benefits from interacting with one another and with the program volunteers. These gardens also provide habitat for native butterflies along the Front Range of Colorado, where rapid development has caused populations to decline. This program, which was recognized with the Citizen/Community Award from Colorado Alliance of Environmental Education in 2010, has continued to draw interest from senior centers throughout the Denver metro area.
Four facilities were selected this year, based on resident interest and appropriateness of the sites: Frasier Meadows Assisted Living and Memory Care in Boulder, Seniors Choice of Continuum Colorado in Aurora, Seniors Resource Center in Wheat Ridge and The Gardens at St. Elizabeth in Denver. These facilities participated in environmental education programs, and then Butterfly Pavilion staff and volunteers came to each facility with native perennials that attract butterflies to help the seniors plant their butterfly garden. These garden programs and habitat gardens reached dozens of residents at each site, and the gardens remain part of the facility for as long as the community desires.
In speaking to the activity directors of participating facilities, the Butterfly Pavilion has been thrilled to learn that seniors are more active, that they enjoy visits from butterflies and that they noticed more about the natural world. All evaluations noted that residents spent more time outdoors after the program. One activity director who participated in the program recalled, “Never before have the seniors spent so much time in the courtyard. Residents who were opposed to fresh air and sunshine went outside.” Another director from that year mentioned, “The seniors love not only the butterflies, but the beautiful flowers as well.”