Wildlife plan for local care homes

CARE homes across West Sussex are joining forces with the RSPB in a bid to encourage more wildlife in their gardens.

Bupa has teamed up with the wildlife charity to introduce wildlife gardening to a number of its care homes over the course of 2011.

The RSPB hopes that as well as creating more homes for birds and other creatures, the initiative will reignite a passion for wildlife among care home residents from their childhoods or spark a new interest.

Sophie McCallum, RSPB south east media officer, said: “We know that access to wildlife and green spaces is important for people, especially the elderly or those recovering from illness. The benefits of gardening also include increased physical and mental activity, a sense of purpose and opportunities to develop friendships.

“Gardens and outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly important refuges for our native wildlife. As well as following our wildlife gardening advice, staff and residents will be able to monitor their results by taking part in regular wildlife surveys throughout the year.

“We hope both people and wildlife will reap the rewards of this partnership.”

Using its Homes for Wildlife project, the RSPB hopes to encourage many species that are currently in decline in British gardens to the care homes, from house sparrows and song thrushes to butterflies, bees and hedgehogs.

Once the project is established, it will also provide residents with the opportunity to take part in wildlife related activities.

These could be observing birds on window feeders, building and painting nest boxes or where possible, helping staff to create new habitats like ponds , bog gardens and wildflower meadows.

Homes for Wildlife was piloted in a number of Bupa care homes in their Midlands and Wales region in 2010. A training day was jointly hosted by the RSPB and Bupa offering staff the chance to learn how to identify opportunities to make the grounds of their homes more appealing to wildlife. They were also given ideas on now to involve residents, of all capabilities, in wildlife related activities.

Almost 90 per cent of those taking part in the pilot rated it ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’ prompting the start a roll-out of the programme across care homes in West Sussex this year.

Research has indicated that close access to nature is important for the elderly or those recovering from illness,