This phrase on the Web site of Westerly Health Center in Westerly, Rhode Island, speaks volumes: “Optimal well being not only depends on where you live, but how you live.”

Director Susan Misto Hebert and activity director Gerry McVeigh, along with their dedicated staff, do their best to live that credo 24/7. Both say that Westerly is a tight-knit community. “We’re right on the Rhode Island-Connecticut border, so we draw from both states,” Susan explains. “Most often, people know other residents when they come here, so they feel more comfortable.”

One source of activity enjoyment for many residents in various ways comes from a wheelchair-accessible flower and vegetable garden. It was started by a volunteer, Ray LaRocque, who is himself in a wheelchair, so he understands what is needed. He has, in fact, started a business of selling cost-effective, pressure-treated lumber units for accessible garden beds.

“The residents absolutely love it,” Gerry says, and so do the staff and family members. “The raised beds are in a closed courtyard, so many residents can see the garden beds from their rooms. Some like to plant tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, beans and various lettuces and tend them. Plus, on a trellis, they plant morning glories and watch them climb.”

Plus, she and Susan point out, the courtyard has created a social atmosphere, as many residents like to sit out there to visit or to eat their lunch outside. “I can’t tell you how much this whole concept has meant to the Westerly residents,” Gerry says.

Creating Together Journal
Ankney, Iowa
by Carol McGarvey