What have Gardens, Libraries and Museums got to do with your health and wellbeing?
[Gardens, Libraries and Museums] have all played a very important part in mine. Having experienced nearly all of the list of most stressful things that can happen in life, including 2 life saving operations, family estrangement, the death of my husband and close friends as well as PTSD after an accident.
I have been through short periods of counselling and I admit talking things through helped, as well as the support of my children and friends. However, I realised that gardens and libraries were very important in my early life and museums have stimulated my mind in my old age.
Today, I'm going to focus on how gardens and museums have helped my health and wellbeing.
I started school in 1939 aged 5 - a child during the Dig for Victory years. My father and grandfather were keen gardeners - we always had home grown vegetables. When my father was called up, my mother and grandfather continued growing as much as possible and I 'helped'. As I grew older I realised I was enjoying it, and had a love of gardening.
During my teacher training course, to become a primary school teacher, I chose to specialise in rural science, one of the best decisions of my life.
My husband was a keen gardener as well, and for years organised the flower and produce show, held at the University Press. Unfortunately, he developed Parkinson's Disease and had strokes which meant an end to his normal gardening life. But knowing how important is was for him and me I redesigned the garden with raised beds so could he could continue doing what he loved.
I found then, and still do now that the stresses of life at whatever stage, vanish when planning, pottering, planting or just sitting and watching the insect life around the garden.
Growing up in Oxford with the Pitt Rivers, the Ashmolean, and Natural History Museum easily accessible was a wonderful way to look and learn - not only about their contents but seeing the imposing buildings impressed me as well.
I've enjoyed visiting museums in different places over the years, some even found by accident when taking a wrong turn.
10 years ago, my cousin Chris introduced me to Memory Lane, a group at the Town Hall, led my Helen Fountain for pensioners, to reminisce about our own experiences and those of our family. Helen Fountain was excellent. She encouraged and brought out the best in us- I even found myself contributing, which was very unusual - I was fine with children, but always uneasy in front of adults.
Helen then began the Meet Me at the Museum sessions at the Pitt Rivers, Natural History and the Ashmolean where we had talks on various subjects and were allowed to handle some of the objects.
When she had to leave, Sarah took over the Town Hall projects and Beth, here, did Meet Me at the Museum. In my old age I was experiencing something new. Going behind the scenes, watching precious objects being restored, handling ancient objects, being told the stories behind the exhibits.
At the beginning of last year, some of us took part in the Messy Realities project at the Pitt Rivers, comparing the health aids we use today against those from the past. It involved not only pensioners, but students, researchers, academics and others. At the end of the first session we were all asked to say one word that described how we felt. That's where at first my mind went blank and I couldn't think of anything, but something came out, I managed.
My confidence must have grown during these sessions because during the last one, which was a general discussion, I suddenly found myself speaking for a couple of minutes without losing words or stumbling, or my mind going blank, most unusual for me. I felt exhilarated after. I had done something in my 80's that I'd been scared to do all my life.
When Beth asked for people to talk today [at the workshop on social prescribing in July 2019] I actually volunteered. If I've got through it without panicking too much I've reached another goal.
Both gardens and museums help to keep me stimulated and sane and I want to continue nurturing both to the end of my life.