Good to Grow: PCC Brings Horticulture Therapy to Friendsview

Last spring’s COVID shutdown caused every Portland Community College campus to close, and that included the Newberg Center, located near our Springbrook Meadows neighborhood. Sadly, the closure included its gerontology program’s robust, in-person internship program. Over the summer they developed a first-of-its-kind pilot project titled Virtual Internship Program (VIP), and last fall Friendsview became one of two locations selected for the test with interns from PCC’s nationally recognized horticultural therapy program.

PCC’s instructor Melissa Bierman safely coordinated the four-week Virtual Therapeutic Horticulture (VTH) sessions with two of her student interns and Friendsview’s resident services coordinator, Mary Harwood. COVID safety precautions created an even greater need for connections with other residents and with nature. Researchers call this “the nature fix,” a sensation revealed through evidence-based research. Contact with God’s creation can result in measurable—or we might say immeasurable—positive health benefits!

The virtual sessions piqued the interest of residents from several Friendsview neighborhoods. Confirmation of their success can be seen in the beautiful amaryllis plant pictured on this page. One PCC student intern working with the residents noted, “Some participants wanted to keep going even after the term ended!”

The encouraging success of the fall-term pilot prompted PCC to approve an expansion of their virtual internships and will offer more classes along the theme of nature’s benefits. Roger Anunsen, teacher of courses such as “The Aging Mind” and “Cognitive Activity Design,” will lead a cognitive intervention pilot program. Prior to joining the faculty in 2011, Roger conducted several brain health education courses titled “MemAerobics” at Friendsview. He now looks forward to helping PCC’s interns develop and deliver even more exciting programs to the Friendsview community in 2021.

This program is one of many opportunities that attract Friendsview residents who embrace the benefits and joy of lifelong learning. Check out Portland Community College online and see what catches your eye!

Mary Malinski, Wilma McNulty, and Susan Berkman, resident participants in the four-week Virtual Therapeutic Horticulture sessions last December, trade stories over the varied growth of their amaryllis plants.

Mary —“I love plants! I watched a tiny African violet grow and I started an amaryllis for the holidays. The class gave me an opportunity to ask many gardening questions and to meet new friends. Thank you!”

Wilma —“Jessie Lee, our talented and patient instructor, gave us many tips for planting and even starting an African violet from a single leaf. We learned patience and sharpened our observational skills for detail. I hope we can continue this in the future.”

Susan —“The sessions afforded us delightful opportunities to spark continuous learning. We received ‘cross-fertilization’ of experience and interests.”

From site staff supervisor,  Mary Harwood

As the “secret agent” of the Virtual Therapeutic Horticulture Internship Project with PCC, I enjoyed sharing materials and information with the interns as well as the participants. At a time when our connections to others are limited, it has given me a chance to build relationships through an exciting community program and to connect residents with caring people and a stimulating activity. Scheduling the program in the darkest weeks of the winter seemed especially apt as it brought the joy of being outdoors to the inside. The materials provided a truly sensational experience with bright colors, varied textures, and earthy fragrances. I look forward to continuing this partnership with PCC and offering the program to even more residents.