Devonshire greenhouse provides ‘cheerful sanctuary' and veggies for residents

Devonshire Acres’ new 50-foot by 30-foot greenhouse is the realization of a year-long dream of Administrator Adria Paxton. It’s also a memorial to her mother and predecessor, Gloria Kaiser. Kaiser, who died after a three-year battle with cancer in 2020, was one of the founders of Devonshire Acres Long Term Care Facility.

On Wednesday, a small gathering was celebrating a resident’s birthday, complete with a birthday cake, in the open space in the greenhouse. Nearby, 10 plant towers overflowed with leaf lettuce and other greens and, at the other end of the facility, residents tended individual gardens planted in large stock tanks. Petunias and marigolds already are growing in hydroponic trays to be used to beautify the grounds next spring and summer. Hanging baskets of geraniums, which decorated the facility this past summer, are tended in the greenhouse, awaiting their outdoor assignments in the coming spring.

Paxton called the greenhouse a “cheerful sanctuary in an optimal climate of 72 degrees year-round.” The idea, she said, originally came from a former Devonshire resident who had owned a greenhouse in Denver. From that seed grew a concept for incorporating a greenhouse into the facility’s overall mission. “That gave us the idea of using (a greenhouse) for therapeutic activities, occupational therapy, and to improve the quality of life for residents,” she said. “Time spent in the greenhouse where it’s bright and cheery has shown to completely change the demeanor of some residents.”

Jaime Michel, director of rehab services at Devonshire, said the greenhouse also offers a creative way to promote functional rehabilitation and sensory stimulation. “We have used pathfinding and other cognitive components for short-term memory, problem-solving, and executive functions using this alternate setting,” Michel said. “We also included family members in this new approach to improve engagement and participation in therapy tasks.” Most of the greenhouse’s lettuce, herbs, and edible flowers are used in Devonshire’s kitchen for the residents. The excess is purchased by The Grill at River City.

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