10 Reasons to Consider an Intergenerational (IG) Gardening Program

1. Kids learn where food comes from–the entire seed to table process: sowing seeds, watering, transplanting, weeding and care, harvesting and sharing a meal. No longer will you hear kids say that food comes from the grocery store! (Or worse a restaurant or drive-through window!)

2. Older Adults enjoy being teachers. They have long-term knowledge about gardening. In the 75+ segment many grew-up on small farms or their families grew veggies and raised chickens to help ends meet during the 1930′s. In the 1940′s they learned all about Victory Gardens to support the war effort.  IG Garden Club is great for older adults with mild cognitive impairment as well. You are tapping into their long term memories while helping kids. It’s a win-win! 

3. Everyone loves to eat what they grow themselves!! Kids will try veggies you never dreamed of them eating if they had a hand in growing them. You can  taste-test your crops together on harvest days and send kids home with a sample and a nutritious recipe.

4. Parents love it and they represent another generation in the mix. Be sure to develop your program so that parents stay and participate. Especially if you are building this program in Assisted Living. This is an important safety issue. The older adults are not free baby-sitters and neither are you.  You need parents to manage their own children and encourage their kids to participate. Also, they provide a vital conversation for the older adults. They bond over the beautiful children gardening and memories. If you keep parents engaged and learning with their kid, they will keep coming back!

6. Fresh air and sunshine Seriously, get outside! Health and Human Service Agencies recommend a minimum of one hour a day of outdoor play. This doesn’t have to be on the soccer field. It can be puttering around the garden.

7. Be in service to others Consider if your garden can be a Food Bank Garden, where you donate the produce to a local food bank or shelter program. Add a row of cut flowers to your garden so you can make floral arrangements one day and give them to the older adults in your program.

8. You can fail with a crop and still succeed with the program! Things gone wrong in the garden are learning opportunities. Investigate, make the kids do some research on why a plant died– Too much/too little water? Not enough sunlight? A bad bug attack? Rabbits, Gophers and Birds? Not enough nutrients in your soil? Are you trying to grow something in the wrong growing season? Whatever the case, simple solutions can be found and you can all try again. Life is messy like that and nature will improvise!

9. Celebrate! This is your outdoor classroom. Have fun! In addition to seeding, watering, harvesting, etc. there are so many games and projects to do in the garden. It’s nice when you can work in small groups or IG pairs (A Kid and Older Adult Buddy).  A scavenger hunt, discuss colors, talk nutrition, go bird-watching, build a worm bin, release lady bugs, make vegetable puppets, make Raw Food recipes (no stove or oven required).

10. It doesn’t have to take place in a  garden. An IG Gardening program can happen with container gardening. It can be at picnic tables on the patio with lesson plans. You could do a simple herb garden that attendees set in their kitchen window. The purpose is learning and playing together! To create warm interactions and let seniors help kids learn the full seed to table process. You could even call it an IG Nature Program if you live in an area where gardens only flourish a few months of the year.

If you have questions on how to structure garden club, feel free to leave them in the comments or e-mail me at lisa@sunshinecare.com

Here’s some exciting news about our IG Garden Club:

Sunshine Care’s IG Garden Club has been featured on KPBS “A Growing Passion”! 

“A Growing Passion” Visits Gardens with a Greater Purpose

Host Nan Sterman visits Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes to learn more about their Intergenerational Garden Club.

 SAN DIEGO (February 27, 2014) – A Growing Passion, the gardening and lifestyle program on KPBS-TV explores the power of plants and nature to change lives.  In this week’s episode “Growing Dreams and Memories”, host Nan Sterman visits three San Diego area gardens that have a greater purpose like promoting health, speeding recovery, or encouraging well-being.

At Sunshine Care Assisted Living Facility in Poway, CA, gardens introduce children to the magic of planting, growing, and interacting with elders.  Local children garden with seniors residents of Sunshine Care’s memory care facility.  Children learn the joys of planting, growing and harvesting from elders with long memories of time spent on farms and in gardens.  The foods and flowers they grow together are used on site.  Extras are donated to the local food bank.  Learn more at www.sunshinecare.com

One Resident at Sunshine Care Assisted Living shared his memory of picking and eating fried green tomatoes.  Here’s a recipe for this traditional southern dish.

Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe


  • 4 medium, firm green tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 2 egg
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil or other vegetable oil


1. Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt. Let tomato slices stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place in separate shallow bowls: the flour and Cajun seasoning (if using), buttermilk and egg, and bread crumbs and cornmeal.

 2.  Heat the peanut oil in a skillet on medium heat. Beat the egg and the buttermilk together. Dip tomato slices in the flour-seasoning mix, then buttermilk-egg mixture, then the cornmeal-bread crumb mix. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 3-5 minutes on each side or until brown. Set the cooked tomatoes on paper towels to drain.  (need to credit source)

 About “A Growing Passion”

In the same episode Sterman also visits Archi’s Acres, a Valley Center hydroponics farm that “grows” military veterans into hydroponics entrepreneurs, and St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center in El Cajon where adults with developmental disabilities learn important life skills and build confidence in the facility’s 2-acre garden and retail nursery.

“A Growing Passion” is about all the ways that San Diego and San Diegans grow. The program, hosted by California native Nan Sterman, celebrates the natural and manmade landscapes that characterize San Diego’s social, cultural, environmental, and economic sectors.  Sterman has dedicated her career to growing and to promoting a sustainable, waterwise approach to gardening.

“A Growing Passion” airs Thursdays at 8:30pm and Saturdays at 1:00pm on KPBS and is available anytime on www.KPBS.org. For more information on the series, please visit www.AGrowingPassion.com. For daily updates and news, become a fan www.Facebook.com/AGrowingPassion.




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Intergenerational Work

Hello everyone, my name is Lisa Lipsey and I am the Community Relations Manager leading Intergenerational Programs here at Sunshine Care Homes. Today is the first day of the Generations United International Conference in Washington D.C.  In just a few minutes I will be heading for Union Station to start the off-site trip to Richmond, Virginia. Today we’ll take a look at three renowned IG programs and tour their sites.  I am especially excited to see the model that is a shared-site adult day care and child care. Sunshine Care has wonderful weekly and monthly IG programs. I am curious how relationships develop and what outcomes or challenges are faced with a daily program.

If you would like to learn more about the term intergenerational and the work being done in this field, please visit http://www.gu.org. You can also learn more about the work Sunshine Care is doing with the Great Friendship Link! by visiting our website. We’re “Bringing Great Grandparents and Great Kids Together”. Check out videos and pictures here: http://www.sunshinecare.com/residents.htm Sunshine Care is a Generations United 2012 -2014 “Program of Distinction” award winner.

Each month I’ll be posting some ideas on how you can improve the lives of older adults through Intergenerational efforts. Be sure to leave comments and questions and I’ll get back to you or you can e-mail me at lisa@sunshinecare.com

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This New Year’s Make a Resolution to Have Better Communication and Joyful Conversations with Your Loved One in Assisted Living!

It can often be challenging for us—family and caregivers—to carry a conversation with a loved one who has dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease or other cognitive disorders. Beyond the “It’s so nice to see you today.” and “Isn’t the weather just beautiful” and “I like your shirt. Nice color.” What do we say?

 Sometimes we stumble upon a good conversation and everyone is delighted. I saw one such magical moment the other day. The daughter mentioned she was going to have a date night with her husband and go to the movies. Then her Mom asked if they were going to see The Wizard of OZ. That turned into a great conversation about the magic of the film, the great storyline and the characters, how they love watching it every year and eating home-made popcorn.

 Wouldn’t you like to stumble on that type of conversation more often? One of the ways to create a more meaningful conversation is to “go back in time” and focus in on the small moments. Little things like how Mom got you up in the morning, the routine for going to bed, or licking cake batter from a spoon. How about the time you crashed on your bicycle and dad bandaged your leg with toilet paper?  Think of those stories that always get a laugh.

 You probably can think of a dozen little stories as you read this blog! Sounds like it’s time for you to make a “Memory Jar” (or Box). It’s easy to do and it makes a great, useful gift too!

 1. Start      by jotting down all your favorite memories and little details. Example, “I      remember on Thanksgiving I always loved your Pumpkin Pie.” Or “You love The      Laurence Welk Show.” Keep the memories to a single sentence. Break up      complex ideas. You can have three or four memories from each holiday listed individually.

 2. Next, type      up the memories in a large font, like a 16. Put a couple blank spaces      between each memory and then print it all out. You’ll want it to be      several pages worth!  

 3.   After      printing, (if you choose, laminate the pages so they are more durable), cut      out the memories into paper strips and place them in a jar with a lid or a      pretty box. An inexpensive jewelry box works well too. Decorate it or put      their name on it. 

  1. Make a      second jar/box so you can have one, filled with memories.

5. Share the little memories together! This keepsake will be a wonderful gift to read over throughout the year. It will provide both of you with great, positive affirmations of love and your family traditions. We have Residents that read through them on their own and Caregivers use the jars to start conversations. 

So, why not help your loved one reconnect to special memories and give yourself the gift of easy conversation starters?!

Could you use more ideas on how to be conversational with someone who has memory care needs? Sunshine Care also has the following tried and true conversation starters posted in all our houses…

 Conversation Starters:

  • This weekend we went to…
  • The weather today is…
  • I talked with your sister/brother/friend the other day and she said….
  • At church this week the pastor talked about…
  • I have a dog named _______ and he is…
  • Someday you will have to meet my daughter, she is…
  • You are such a good mom/dad because…
  • You know when I was a kid we used to…
  • I heard you can fix just about anything.
  • I heard you have a green thumb, do you like  roses?
  • I heard you love to dance. What about the waltz?

Things to reminisce about:

  • Hide & seek at dusk
  • Sitting on the porch
  • Hot bread and butter
  • Penny candy in a brown bag
  • Hopscotch, kickball and Jump Rope
  • Cowboys and Indians
  • Being tickled to death
  • Climbing trees
  • Building forts
  • Laughing so hard it hurts
  • Licking the beaters when mom made a cake
  • Walking on the Beach
  • Long Car Trips
  • Songs around the fire or piano
  • Popcorn at the Movies
  • Summer Vacation
  • What was your very first car ?
  • Sewing your own clothes
  • Man Walking on the Moon
  • Shoe Shopping
  • Favorite TV Shows: I Love Lucy, Lawrence Welk, Johnny Carson
  • Candlelight Dinner
  • Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny
  • Holding a child’s hand
  • Playing Cards, Monopoly or Shooting Pool
  • First Job,  Last Job before Retiring
  • Favorite Pets /Animals
  • Arranging Flowers in a Vase
  • Getting a Bear Hug

P.S.: The Memory Jar is also a great thing to send to a student that is away at college!!

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Assisted Living Visiting Guide for Families

Fall and the winter holiday season mark the busiest time of the year in Assisted Living. Everyone comes to visit! From Girl Scout carolers to church youth groups to grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to the out-of-state son who came into town for a holiday and hasn’t seen Mom since last year.

It’s the grandchildren and son that likely could use a little support and ideas on how to make the visit most successful. So here are Sunshine Care Assisted Living Home’s tried and true tips for Holiday visiting:

1. Consider calling ahead and letting staff know you are coming in with extended family. They will take a few minutes to help your Mom touch-up her hair, put on some lipstick, change her into a fresher or dressy shirt. At Sunshine Care we will set a private alcove with afternoon tea or hot chocolate and cookies if given a little notice.

2.  If family has never been  to visit, or it has been a few months, try to give them an honest and simple overview of how Mom is doing. And then give them some tips, “Mom is using a walker now. She sometimes repeats herself and she sometimes says she lives at the house we grew up in. Try using statements instead of questions. ‘Mom, it is so nice to see you today.’ versus ‘How are you?’”

3.  Take a minute to talk about the assisted living setting with young children. What types of things might we see? Walkers, wheelchairs, people who have trouble walking or talking. Maybe people who don’t have teeth. People who would love you to say hello and shake their hand or give them a gentle high-five. It is guaranteed when you go visit a family member you will visit and say hi to other residents.

4. Bring something you can share. Keep it simple– some family photos, a magazine with great pictures. Have the grandkids bring their favorite stuffed animals to introduce or make and bring homemade greeting cards. Bring a t-shirt you all have signed or put your handprints on or one that says “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas”. Something you can easily talk and laugh about.

5. Skip the cookies, candies and living plants! Sweets should be in moderation — bring three or four cookies, not two dozen. It’s a fact of life, living plants will die and it is especially likely when they are kept indoors. Unless you firmly believe Mom can water it herself, don’t waste your money. Even consider skipping cut flowers. Bring something that is inexpensive but will last and brighten her day each day of the season. A small fiber optic Christmas tree or plastic wreath for her room is perfect. Or a poster with pictures and notes from all the family. A seasonal themed necklace or bracelet that is from Target not Tiffany’s, so it’s no big deal if she loses it.

6.  Pay attention to your body language and pace. Remember silence is okay too. No matter what level of care needs a person has and no matter how much they can or cannot communicate, the one skill that is never lost is what we call “emotional communication”. Mom might not know what she had for breakfast, but she can sense when things are not okay. You and your family need to provide a feeling of love, calm and joy. Be prepared to slow  down, move at her pace, sit down and smile. Sometimes, after ten minutes, you run out of things to say. Try just sitting together holding her hand or massage some lotion into her hands and arms. Touch is very healing and speaks volumes.

7. Take pictures together. Ask the staff to snap some with your camera. Those multi-generational family photos are real treasures.

8. Keep the visit short, not more than one hour. Consider not more than 30 minutes with young children.

9. Keep your goodbyes simple. Keep Mom in mind and her comfort when saying goodbye, “Mom, it was great visiting with you. The kids and I have to go grocery shopping so we’ll see you later.”  It is recommended that you don’t give a return time. Keep it casual, as if you see each other all the time. Try your best, and encourage family, to avoid long drawn-out emotional goodbyes, “Goodbye Mom, I’ll miss you so much. I’ll see you next Christmas okay?” These prolonged goodbyes trigger fear, anxiety, confusion and frustration for Mom.  She is suddenly uncertain when she will ever see you again. Not a good way to leave her feeling. If you need support or Mom asks to go home with you, get a staff person to help with redirection when it is time to leave.

10. Debrief. Take a few minutes to talk about the visit with your family. Allow family that hasn’t seen her in some time to talk about the changes they noticed and their fears.  

We hope these ten steps will make visits more enjoyable for both you and your loved one in Assisted Living. They certainly have come in handy for us!

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America’s Best Intergenerational Communities–From Generations United

Just this week, Sunshine Care had the pleasure of being honored as the North County Inland star partner in the recognition of San Diego County –Our County has been named as one of America’s Best Intergenerational Communities! And that’s good for everyone’s health— that we continue our focus on building a community for all ages.

The write up from Generations United (gu.org) states the following:

“Think of San Diego and you probably focus on its physical beauty: the sandy beaches and imposing canyons, the charming historic area, and, of course, the lovely weather. But if you concentrated solely on the physical attributes, you‘d miss out on one of San Diego‘s most appealing traits: its commitment to making life better for all generations.

With three million residents strong, the County of San Diego believes in the need to support intergenerational connections. In 2001, it backed up that belief with serious funding by adding a fulltime staff position of Intergenerational Coordinator at the county‘s department of Aging & Independence Services (AIS). That investment has paid big returns: through intergenerational programs it has employed residents‘ strengths to expand services and address serious challenges. Residents benefit by having the opportunity use their talents and creativity to contribute to the county‘s well-being and vibrancy.

Over the past 11 years, the county‘s commitment to intergenerational programs has only strengthened as the economy has weakened. By sharing sites and resources, it has maximized financial resources. It has also challenged traditional ways of funding. For example, AIS allocates funding from the Older Americans Act to support intergenerational program development. It also requests and receives funds from other county agencies to support intergenerational programs.

Recently, a $16.1 million dollar Centers for Disease Control Healthy Works grant included an intergenerational thread that supported Safe Routes to School, Breakfast in the Classroom, Community gardens, and Community Engagement.

 In San Diego today, all types of county services and programs have an intergenerational aspect. Libraries and Parks and Recreation offer intergenerational art, math, reading and jazz programs. Older adults take part in a Workforce Academy for Youth, mentoring foster youth for six months as they get ready to leave the foster system and join the work world. Young people have the opportunity to join the Legacy Corps Program where they serve caregivers and learn about the aging process. The county also works with providers that serve older adults and youth to sponsor Resident and Youth Leadership Academies. These academies train older adults and youth in leadership, and primarily focus on community planning principles and environmental prevention strategies. The list goes on.

 This June, county agencies, non-profit organizations, for-profit agencies and faith communities will conduct a summit: Live Well, San Diego! Building a Healthy Community for All Ages. Speakers and activities will focus on how to make healthy choices and create living environments that encourage safe, active lifestyles. The event will take place in five locations to ensure all San Diegans have access to the information and activities. San Diego‘s efforts have resonated well with residents of all ages. As retired volunteer and community gardener Rich Rogers noted, community gardening ―has turned into a labor of love. Gardening is as ―grass roots‖ as you can get and teaching and mentoring kids of all ages increases my desire to be a positive influence and asset in my community.

 And for Alexis Wilson, a college student, her labor of love is to volunteer to meet with an older adult who has Parkinson‘s disease. As she describes it, ―Phil‘s wife recently told me he sometimes forgets I‘m not part of the family. Spending time with Phil reminds me I‘m not going to be young forever. I would want the same help when I am that age.”

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Lowering Fall Risk

Prevention of Falls

Set-up of the environment and reminders can really help prevent falls for many seniors. Here are some safety tips from the National Institute of Health for preventing falls–both outside and around house. But the biggest prevention of falls comes from maintaining a regular 15 -20 mintue daily exercise program that includes balance exercises. This is not anything too advanced or complicated, take for example the low-impact chair exercises offered daily at Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes. www.sunshinecare.com

Safety first to prevent falls: At any age, people can change their environments to reduce their risk of falling and breaking a bone.

Outdoor safety tips:

  • In nasty weather, use a walker or cane for added stability.
  • Wear warm boots with rubber soles for added traction.
  • Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Many floors are made of highly polished marble or tile that can be very slippery. If floors have plastic or carpet runners in place, stay on them whenever possible.
  • Identify community services that can provide assistance, such as 24-hour pharmacies and grocery stores that take orders over the phone and deliver. It is especially important to use these services in bad weather.
  • Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack to leave hands free.
  • Stop at curbs and check their height before stepping up or down. Be cautious at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for bikes or wheelchairs. The incline up or down may lead to a fall.

Indoor safety tips:

  • Keep all rooms free from clutter, especially the floors.
  • Keep floor surfaces smooth but not slippery. When entering rooms, be aware of differences in floor levels and thresholds.
  • Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes, even at home. Avoid walking around in socks, stockings, or floppy, backless slippers.
  • Check that all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor, including carpeting on stairs.
  • Keep electrical and telephone cords and wires out of walkways.
  • Be sure that all stairwells are adequately lit and that stairs have handrails on both sides. Consider placing fluorescent tape on the edges of the top and bottom steps.
  • For optimal safety, install grab bars on bathroom walls beside tubs, showers, and toilets. If you are unstable on your feet, consider using a plastic chair with a back and nonskid leg tips in the shower.
  • Use a rubber bath mat in the shower or tub.
  • Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries beside your bed.
  • Add ceiling fixtures to rooms lit by lamps only, or install lamps that can be turned on by a switch near the entry point into the room. Another option is to install voice- or sound-activated lamps.
  • Use bright light bulbs in your home.
  • If you must use a step-stool for hard-to-reach areas, use a sturdy one with a handrail and wide steps. A better option is to reorganize work and storage areas to minimize the need for stooping or excessive reaching.
  • Consider purchasing a portable phone that you can take with you from room to room. It provides security because you can answer the phone without rushing for it and you can call for help should an accident occur.
  • Don’t let prescriptions run low. Always keep at least 1 week’s worth of medications on hand at home. Check prescriptions with your doctor and pharmacist to see if they may be increasing your risk of falling. If you take multiple medications, check with your doctor and pharmacist about possible interactions between the different medications.
  • Arrange with a family member or friend for daily contact. Try to have at least one person who knows where you are.
  • If you live alone, you may wish to contract with a monitoring company that will respond to your call 24 hours a day.
  • Watch yourself in a mirror. Does your body lean or sway back and forth or side to side? People with decreased ability to balance often have a high degree of body sway and are more likely to fall.

Medications That May Increase the Risk of Falling:

  • Blood pressure pills
  • Heart medicines
  • Diuretics or water pills
  • Muscle relaxers or tranquilizers


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Brain Health

When people think about staying fit, they generally think from the neck down. But the health of your brain plays a critical role in almost everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing — even sleeping.

 The good news is Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes has a partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and they tell us, there’s a lot you can do to help keep your brain healthy as you age.

 The Alzheimer’s Association has launched a Maintain Your Brain® campaign designed to help all Americans understand steps they can take now to make brain health part of their overall goals for healthy aging. A few simple lifestyle changes can help keep you fit mentally and physically for years to come, and might also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

 Several of the 10 Ways to Maintain Your Brain form the core of how and why we design our daily activities at Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes.

 10 ways to Maintain Your Brain®

 1. Head first

Good health starts with your brain. It’s one of the most vital body organs, and it needs care and maintenance.

 2. Take brain health to heart

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Do something every day to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke — all of which can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.

 3. Your numbers count

Keep your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels within recommended ranges.

 4. Feed your brain

Research suggests that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits may help protect brain cells. Eat less fat and more antioxidant-rich foods.

 5. Work your body

Physical exercise keeps the blood flowing to the brain and may encourage new brain cells. Walking just 30 minutes a day can help keep both body and mind active.

 6. Jog your mind

Keeping your brain active and engaged strengthens brain cells and the connections between them, and may even trigger growth of new cells. Read, write, play games, learn new things, do crossword puzzles.

 7. Connect with others

Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social elements may be most likely to prevent dementia. Be social, converse, volunteer, join a club or take a class.

 8. Heads up! Protect your brain

Take precautions against head injuries. Always wear a seat belt; unclutter your house to avoid falls; and wear a helmet when cycling.

 9. Use your head

Avoid unhealthy habits. Don’t smoke, drink excessive alcohol or use street drugs.

 10. Think ahead – start today!

You can do something today to protect your tomorrow.

 The science behind these recommendations

While there is strong evidence pointing to ways to support brain health and possibly reduce risk of dementia, it’s important to understand that there is no way to predict what will happen to any particular person. Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes, The Alzheimer’s Association and Maintain Your Braindo not guarantee individual health outcomes.

 More information

To learn more about Maintain Your Brain®, visit http://www.alz.org/maintainyourbrain.

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