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Transcript: Bringing Nature Indoors with Orla Concannon of Eldergrow

Bringing Nature Indoors with Orla Concannon of Eldergrow

Orla Concannon: Hey, everyone. This is Orla Concannon of Eldergrow and you’re listening to Cosmic Soup.

[music]

Mike Peacock: Welcome back, everyone. Thanks for joining us today for another delicious episode of Cosmic Soup. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Mike, where have you been? You left us hanging. My life just hasn’t been complete without the Soup.”

I know it’s been a while since our last episode, but what can I say? Things have been a little, well, out of the ordinary, to say the least, and we had a bunch of stuff we just had to take care of. I’m sure you understand. Rest assured, we’re back on track and ready to blow your minds once again.

Today, we have a very special guest, someone who specializes in something that is absolutely epic, that is near and dear to my own heart, therapeutic gardening, and horticulture. Believe me when I say that the services her company provides are out of this world and awe-inspiring. So much so that Culinary Coach is proud to partner with them on some really cool projects, so please welcome to Cosmic Soup the founder and CEO of Eldergrow, Orla Concannon.

Hey, Orla! Welcome to the show. I’m so glad we could finally make this happen after talking about it for about a year, huh?

Orla: [Laughter] Well, I am delighted to be here, Mike. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your patience while we had to reschedule, but I too have been looking forward to it.

Mike: Yeah. You know it’s crazy. When I was thinking about it’s been close to a year now since we first worked together at the Leading Age Conference and kind of how everything has changed over the last few months. Now, everything, just the landscape of all the businesses have changed. Eldergrow has had to kind of go through a whole lot of different structural changes as well, so no surprise that we had to kind of put things off for a little bit.

Orla: Yeah, definitely, and I think we’re all in the same shoes where we’re all doing a dance. We’re managing here at Eldergrow. That is good news. Our head is above water and we’re rooting for our senior living partners and really, really appreciate how they’re taking good care of our elders right now. Yeah, it’s good to be here so we can give praise to the senior living industry and share how we can help.

Mike: Yeah. Awesome. Well, I, of course, am very familiar with what you do, but for our amazing listeners here on the ol’ Cosmic Soup, let’s get a little bit of background on you. Why don’t you tell us how you came up with the concept of Eldergrow? When did you officially start it?

Orla: Well, we officially started in 2015, so we just celebrated five years on Earth Day. It was a result of a lifelong passion that I’ve held for our elders.

I suppose the inspiration truly started with my Irish grandmother who we called Nanna. She lived to be 99 years of age. She really just helped me put our elders on the map for me. They’re on my radar and I have a tremendous respect for them.

She, my nanna, had businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, so she lived in Ireland, and then she lived here in the States. We were very close and I think it’s the result of that that it manifested in a career in senior living and now Eldergrow.

I used to live in Dublin, Ireland, where I worked for the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland. Then here in the States, I worked for senior living communities. Now, as you know, for the past five years, I’ve been doing Eldergrow.

Mike: Yeah. That’s a pretty awesome history. I love the fact that it started with a family tie, which I do find that a lot of businesses and passions start with something that is close to you, and that passion kind of turns into something that you pursue. I also love the fact that there’s a tie to Ireland, which, for me, I’ve got these visions in my head about what Ireland is actually like, so that’s really cool. You weren’t born there, though, right?

Orla: No, I was not. My parents emigrated. I do have dual citizenship, though, so I studied college sometime there during my college years. Then I was there in my 30s and that’s when I was working for the Alzheimer’s Society. I worked in their national office. That was the foray into senior living, actually having walked in the senior space for a while.

I worked in communities and that is where I got the idea for Eldergrow. What I noticed was that the residents didn’t get to go outside that much. They spent inordinate amounts of time indoors. That was my observation and, as a nature lover, I really wanted to figure out a way to solve that problem. I saw it as an issue and that was the seed for Eldergrow – no pun intended.

Mike: [Laughter] Nice.

Orla: No shortage of puns and metaphors around the agricultural space and gardening, for sure.

Mike: Right. Did I read it correctly that you actually received some seed money based off some research project that you did?

Orla: That’s pretty close. Eldergrow was born, if you will, while I was in graduate school. I went off to Seattle University and I got a healthcare leadership MBA. I had to come up with a business plan as part of my degree and it became Eldergrow. I was encouraged to solve a problem for the strategy around the business plan and so, as I made mention, noticed that because residents couldn’t get outside that much, I needed to come up with a solution.

The solution was Eldergrow where we bring nature indoors. My business plan during graduate school really developed this concept. My cohorts at the time, they encouraged me to enter into a university business competition, which I did. After a series of competitions or different rounds, kind of like Shark Tank, if you will—

Mike: [Laughter]

Orla: –Eldergrow came and was in the finals. It won a lot of awards. One of them was the audience favorite, and we won some prize money. Then post, thereafter, we also were accepted into University of Washington’s accelerator for innovative startups. That lent to some seed money as well. That’s how I started the company.

Mike: Oh, that’s an amazing story. I absolutely love that. Now, getting to the nuts and bolts of what it is that Eldergrow is about, in essence, what you do is therapeutic gardening, correct?

Orla: That’s correct.

Mike: Awesome. If you could describe that for people kind of what that means.

Orla: Sure. Well, therapeutic gardening or therapeutic horticulture, as it’s also called, uses plants and plant-related activities to support a person’s mind, body, and soul. It’s built more layered than a garden club. We create activities for the residents that are innovative and they go beyond just traditional gardening activities.

For example, we have garden art classes for the artists. Then we’ll have culinary harvest classes for the foodies in the senior living community. We’ll also have educational classes, say for example around air-cleaning plants. This will engage the intellects in the communities. We really try to come up with a diverse curriculum and program that is enriching and stimulating.

We actually even do a garden to glass. That’s our new component of one of our programs where the herbs that the community grows would later be transformed, after harvesting, into a tasty libation. Thanks to you at Culinary Coach, we have some neat recipes that we provide our customers. In fact, you also help us with a cultural recipe that we give to the community. All that is to say that we are coming up with a robust curriculum to really engage residents in a meaningful way using the garden, so what we have.

I probably should explain that part of Eldergrow. What we do is we have indoor gardens, and so they’re beautiful gardens. They’re really, truly a showpiece in the community. They’re mobile. They’re on wheels. They have a grow light and they’re filled with colorful plants, fragrant plants, and herbs in some cases. We really try to grow live indoors and that right there is the crux of therapeutic gardening, growing life indoors, and giving residents renewed purpose, something to nurture.

Mike: Yeah. that’s amazing. Also, the gardens themselves, as you said, are beautiful. They’re constructed, at least partially, by a very special group of people, are they not?

Orla: Yes, indeed. We are very fortunate to partner with a nonprofit that has a job training program, a job skills training program out of Chehalis. What they do is they provide job skills training for disabled veterans and other adults living with disabilities. This fine group are the very ones who handcraft our indoor gardens and they’re just beautiful. They’re made our of local Douglas fir wood and they’re a showpiece. The woodwork is really pretty amazing, so we’re very fortunate to work with this group.

Mike: Yeah, and I can say that we have one at the office and it is, in and of itself, a work of art. Then when you fill it up with herbal awesomeness, it’s even that much cooler. They also make those cutting boards, right?

Orla: Yeah! Yeah! That’s right. They make the cutting boards, so those are really perfect for our herb garden program. We love sharing those as gifts as well. In fact, come to think of it, some customers like to use those for their own community gifts, the cutting boards, so that’s definitely part of it.

In fact, we also have a chalkboard made by them. We have a large chalkboard. It’s about two-foot wide by three-foot long and customers often place that chalkboard, which is made out of the beautiful wood frame, next to the culinary herb garden. That’s the second type of garden we have. We have the original therapeutic sensory garden and then we more recently developed and launched a culinary herb garden. That’s the very one that we partner with you starting a year ago when we had that fun at Leading Age San Diego Conference.

Mike: Yeah.

Orla: Yeah, that was good fun. Yeah, so there’s a chalkboard that goes with that particular garden as well.

Mike: Cool. Well, you just got into the next thing that I was going to ask you about. Initially, y’all started out with two kinds of gardens, the culinary and the therapy. What can you tell us about those two and who are each of those targeted at?

Orla: Well, the therapeutic horticulture garden was our original garden, and so we’ve been doing that one for five years now. As I mentioned, a large, indoor, mobile garden with a grow light, so they really can provide quite a – they really make a garden pop. They’re brightly lit. The colors come alive. Those particular gardens are colorful, fragrant, and they beautify a space, of course. They’re beautifying but they’re also fulfilling, so the residents have something to care for.

This particular garden is well suited for the memory care and skilled care populations because of the therapeutic component. I have educators across the U.S. who come in and they provide hands-on therapeutic gardening programming. For that reason, it’s really a perfect fit for the memory care and skilled care areas of the community.

The culinary herb garden, on the other hand, really is well placed for independent living and assisted living. It’s a DIY garden – do it yourself. This program comes with herb of the month, so instead of having our educators go into the community, what we do instead is we ship my ready to plant organic plants to the community each month. We provide programming that brings farm to table into the senior living community. It includes the cultural recipe that you help provide.

Mike: Woo-hoo!

Orla: Might I mention, yeah. Yeah, and your chef tips. It’s been just so fun to partner with you. You really helped us raise the bar when it comes to the culinary component of this program.

The other piece of the program is the activity side, so it’s an interdepartmental program. It’s a culinary program and in addition to it being an activities program. Say, for example, an activities director could create an herb sachet with herbs that they grow with the residents. That’s how it’s interdepartmental.

Those are our two main, core indoor garden programs.

Mike: Yeah. If you don’t mind me asking you to elaborate on something real quick, in the sense of when you’re talking about the therapeutic side of it and kind of how it ties into memory care and things like that, what is the mechanism? How does the science work when we are working with people in those conditions? How do the plants and the herbs help them?

Orla: We know that the senses, the five senses, to engage them and stimulate them can be very beneficial to us as humans. The gardens, they themselves have a large focus on sensory stimulation, whether it’s fragrance or a tactile component. Then we are able, with our programming, to hit on the other senses, so for example those being taste. We’ll do culinary classes and we’ll gather residents around to hit the auditory component during socialization. We hit all the senses and that we know from research how beneficial it is.

We just, for example, launched a new five senses kit. What we know is that the sense of touch, for example, can improve mood, it helps improve socialization and participation, and it helps improve memory with individuals living with Alzheimer’s. There’s just a definite connection between plants and humans.

One study that we were just reviewing that was really fascinating was around memory. There’s your past memory, what you learned, say for example, at school. Then there’s your present memory, which is your day-to-day, minute-by-minute memory. Then there’s your future memory or when you’re trying to remember to remember, like what you have ahead.

Mike: [Laughter]

Orla: [Laughter] That’s the most complicated type of memory. There was this study, a neuroscience study that took rosemary and lavender. They performed a test. It was a controlled study. It was a test focused around that future memory. Again, that’s remembering to remember. It’s more complex.

What they found was that the participants with the rosemary infusions did significantly better than those who didn’t have the rosemary. What I find really fascinating is that the lavender demonstrated a decrease in performance. This makes sense, though, if you think about it because lavender, we also see it as something that calms you.

Mike: Mm-hmm.

Orla: Relaxes you and it’s associated with sleep and sedation. That makes sense that the participants didn’t do as well around the lavender because that is well-known. We don’t think about the studies behind it, but it’s well-known to relax, and so we use lavender in our gardens. We use it in both gardens, for that matter, both the culinary garden as well as the therapeutic garden. That’s an example of how we engage the senses and provide for therapeutic interventions.

Mike: Yeah. It’s actually a good way to integrate natural assistance for people as opposed to only relying on, say, medication or pharmacology. This is something that can be used amongst a myriad of other treatments, but it provides a really natural alternative for people.

Orla: Absolutely. It’s definitely, hands down, a non-pharmacological approach to wellness. There are over 200 evidence-based studies. It’s really mind-blowing how much research has been done around it and it’s really what locked me in back in grad school was the wealth of data around it.

For example, when I was entertaining this concept of therapeutic horticulture and developing Eldergrow, the University of Washington, in our own backyard here in Seattle, they have some fascinating evidence-based reports around nature and humans. One that, to this day, I always talk about and I’ll talk about now—

Mike: [Laughter]

Orla: –because I just couldn’t believe it. Frequent gardening has been shown to reduce the risk factors for dementia by 36%. I’ve never seen something so definitive and, to your point, it’s a nonpharmacological approach to wellness. Keep weeding. It does count. [Laughter] Definitely get your hands in the soil.

It does not have to be master gardening type of connection with nature. It can be as simple as even just admiring nature. There are studies around just looking at nature can provide a sense of calm.

Mike: Yeah, that’s awesome. I absolutely love that. You know my history with that. My grandmother was advanced stage Alzheimer’s and suffered with dementia for the majority of her life, actually. And so, her space, her happy place was with the plants, in the gardens, and being outside in nature.

She lived on an Indian reservation. She’s Native American. She was always surrounded by nature and she never wanted to be indoors. She was always outside. That was kind of her thing. Yeah, I have been, for years, a firm supporter of the notion that being around nature and plants and sensory jogging things does have a physiological effect on your body. Absolutely.

Orla: Yeah, definitely, in many respects. Then it has the emotional and spiritual layer to it. In fact, right before we got on our call, I received an email from a customer in Texas with a photograph. The community sent us a photograph of the resident with a quote by the resident. It said, if I may – it’s short. It was in the email I just got.

“Bonnie says that the garden is a loving thing. You can love it and watch it grow and you’ll be amazed at what you did. There’s something there, you know. There’s something rewarding and I’m on the same page as you and your grandmother. The open skies are calming. They just truly are. They spend a life indoors. You know there are problems with that.”

I think, during COVID, I think that we’re feeling that. I’m getting a little cabin fever.

Mike: Yeah.

Orla: I don’t know about you.

Mike: Yeah. No lie there. We’re all struggling with that one.

Orla: Yep. In fact, in some respects, I feel like nature has been our ally during this. I’ll speak for myself on that one in the sense that I can go outside and walk around the neighborhood safely. I can admire all the beautiful gardens here in Seattle. They’re just so easy to gawk at. There are so many beautiful gardens around town.

I am just so grateful that I can admire the rhododendrons, the magnolia when it’s opening. Now we’re getting the fragrant lilies and for that, I’m grateful because it really has helped ground me during all of this.

Mike: Yeah.

Orla: Yeah.

Mike: Yeah, and being in a place like Seattle, a lot of people don’t know this about where we live but, outside of the cities themselves, this area in the Pacific Northwest is very green. It’s very nature-driven, so it’s just one of the most beautiful places in the world. When things start to come in bloom, the visuals and the senses and the sense, everything just kind of goes gangbusters, and you’re just constantly bombarded with just an amazing sensory overload. That’s one of the very few or one of the things that I absolutely love about being here.

Since you mentioned it, though, and we kind of touched on it in the beginning, but since COVID, a lot of companies have had to do some pretty drastic pivoting, including you guys. We talked about how you started. You kind of touched on some of the new things that you’ve done. You’ve added a couple of new kits to your program, some new classes, and some new videos. Let’s talk a little bit about some of that new stuff you’re doing.

Orla: Well, in light of COVID, we were unable to enter the communities. That’s a big part of what Eldergrow does with the therapeutic garden program. Our educators go in twice a month in normal circumstances.

We quickly shifted to what we call virtual activities, and so we’re still developing content and curriculum that we share with the communities and we provide how-to videos alongside the curriculum. Then we also provide remote garden coaching. We’re actually looking at the gardens that we normally would tend to onsite. Now we’re coaching the community staff, say through video chat like Facetime or WhatsApp, and we’re looking at the garden live and providing custom, one-on-one coaching and helping the staff take good care.

It’s pretty exciting. We’re seeing some really beautiful gardens and we’re empowering staff and residents. Some of the gardens are actually completely resident-driven, so we’re coaching the residents directly too. That’s largely in the culinary herb garden program.

It’s been different but it’s certainly been rewarding and it’s working, thank goodness. That’s one way we shifted.

As you pointed out, the kits I mentioned earlier, we launched two kits during COVID. One is our farm to fork garden kit, which we launched in tandem with our five-year birthday or anniversary on Earth Day. This is our first foray outdoors. To date, we’ve been doing everything indoors in light of connecting residents and really trying to remove any obstacles.

Now, as it turns out, outdoors is where some residents can go and meet their families and their loved ones. There are some instances now where you can gather outdoors. This outdoor farm to fork kit, we ship organic, ready to plant herbs, and provide activities and recipes. Much thanks to you, again.

Mike: Woo-hoo!

Orla: [Laughter] That the residents can do with the staff and families. That’s the farm to fork kit.

I already touched on the five senses kit. That one is indoors. That one actually didn’t require gardening, so that one is really about engagement and sensory stimulation. It’s really, therefore, looking to help the residents who are in isolation who may even be confined to their rooms.

We’re really trying to provide a way to help staff who are doing an incredible job, might I add, right now. Provide them with some ideas to engage the residents because they have really challenging jobs right now. We developed the five senses kit with that in mind. Again, we use organic herb plants for sensory stimulation, though, and reusable activities around those plants, they being rosemary, mint, and lavender.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, those are amazing. I use those, actually, quite a bit myself for making cocktails or making dressings, sauces, and garnishes, of course. I love to make little fresh herbal sachets. One of my favorite things to do with those kinds of, I guess you’d call them, stemmy herbs is to really kind of make little pastry brushes out of them where you kind of tie them together and dip them, like in oil and then brush the meats that you’re grilling with them. It just makes an awesome back flavor. I love the five senses kit. I think it’s absolutely amazing.

Orla: Well, you always have great ideas. I have actually started making some recipes. I’m more comfortable out in nature than I am in the kitchen.

[Laughter]

Orla: But thanks to your recipes and COVID, which has really kept me home, I have really started to embrace these. You have great ideas. I really appreciate the new garden to glass feature that we’ve been working on, the sort of mocktail cocktail.

Mike: I love that.

Orla: We use the herbs. Yeah. Yeah, and the videos we provide, you asked about those earlier. We provide those just for ease to support the staff, so ease of comprehension, if you will, just to show how to do something. Just a little mini class shown on video done by one of our awesome trainers just to walk them through the actual lesson.

Mike: I’m curious then. How many communities are currently using Eldergrow?

Orla: Yeah, so I was thinking about that before we hopped on our call. I know that would be a good question to ask, so we are just about to reach 300 communities now.

Mike: Holy shmacks!

Orla: Yeah. Yeah, yep, we started a little growth spurt of late, so we’re very fortunate. Yeah, we’re coming up on 300 – around there. I need to do an exact count.

Mike: That’s close enough. It’s a lot. Let’s just put it that way. [Laughter] What has the response been then from people who have the Eldergrow gardens in place? How do they like it? Are they using it? What’s the feedback you’re getting?

Orla: Oh, I mean it’s been phenomenal and very fulfilling and rewarding. The impact is immediate. It’s been that way since the start five years ago in terms of the impact on the residents.

We went in with our first garden during the pilot … just how it would electrify the community, just these beautiful, fragrant plants, and something different and unusual. It just ignited the community. Not only the residents, but the staff. It brought about reminiscing, people who had worked on farms, or grew their own gardens. It really gave a sense of place for the residents and also, like I said earlier, something to nurture.

One general manager here in the city of Seattle, she was, I think, customer number four, maybe. She said it was a gamechanger. Families were just astounded and really appreciative of how a community was investing in the residents, and so the families were really happy and the customers are really happy, the senior living partners were really happy in their investment. It’s really just been a terrific experience with the 300 communities that we’re at today.

Mike: Yeah. That’s just simply amazing. The fact that there are that many people adopting kind of a natural approach to things, I think, in communities. I wish that we could get them into all communities.

From my perspective, when you think about it, it just kind of seems like a no-brainer. I’m sure the logistics are a lot more complicated than, “Hey, just put gardens everywhere.” But just what you do, I think, is awesome.

We’ve got the culinary herbs. We’ve got the more sensory, therapeutic style plants. What other possibilities might there be for Eldergrow products in the future that you might add to the gardens?

Orla: Well, we’re on our toes. We’re always staying on our toes, and we love to innovate. The latest thing that we’ve been working on is, we’ve expanding further into nature therapy. We’re expanding beyond just therapeutic gardening.

Given that we’re living in a virtual age and we want to find a way to connect our senior living partners and the residents and the people at large with nature. In the past two or three decades, there have been tons of studies around the health benefits to humans around nature and nature intervention, so there’s passive intervention and there’s active intervention. The passive ones would be just looking at nature, for example, or looking at a fish in an aquarium. Then the active ones are getting your hands in the soil.

All that said is that we are expanding beyond the gardening and wider into nature. We’re developing a nature kit right now that’s not just plants but also butterflies and birds.

Mike: Oh!

Orla: We’re not going to be shipping and birds.

Mike: [Laughter]

Orla: Rather, we’re creating a way to connect with birds.

Mike: I love that.

Orla: Yeah, we’re super excited. I am too.

Mike: I’m glad we’re not going to look forward to little shoeboxes full of holes arriving in the mail.

[Laughter]

Mike: We’ll avoid that.

Orla: Can you imagine?

Mike: Right?

Orla: Yeah, can you imagine?

Mike: What has been the biggest challenge? Besides COVID, of course, challenging the entire world, but in growing the company of Eldergrow, what has been the biggest challenge for you, and how have you addressed it?

Orla: You know I bootstrapped Eldergrow. We were fortunate to receive some award money, which as I said was the first seed money and I started Eldergrow with that. Basically, it was a lot of elbow grease, so I was going out to investors. I think, though, when you have a lot of passion, which I do, pretty determined, and you have a good idea and a great team, imagine it can happen.

I think we’re able to go around those obstacles. It’s just hard work, but what isn’t? I don’t know. I’m just used to hard work. I think that’s my answer. The big challenge is it takes a lot of work, but I’m in it. I’m in it for the long-haul.

Mike: Yeah. In the trenches and nose to the grindstone.

Orla: [Laughter] Yeah, one foot in front of the other.

Mike: Well, I’ve got just a couple of more questions for you, and these we refer to here at Cosmic Soup as the Cynthia questions. These are questions that we ask every guest that comes on the show because we absolutely love to get the different perspectives on the same questions.

Question number one: If you could create your dream senior living community for yourself to live in, what would it look like? What would it consist of? Describe it for us.

Orla: I’m glad you asked. I envision a community that has outdoor space, green space, a greenhouse, fresh air, so that’s what I envision. I envision alternative wellness therapies that are nonpharmacological approaches, so of course, those would be therapeutic horticulture, but there’ll be animal-assisted therapies.

There’s everything around chicken therapy and equine therapy. These are actual, true therapies. As you know, dogs are largely recognized as animal-assisted type of therapy, but there are others. When I say equine therapy, I don’t mean everyone is going to hop on a horse and gallop around the community.

Mike: [Laughter] That’d be cool, though.

Orla: That would be cool, right? But brushing the mane of a horse. They’re intuitive creates. It can be quite healing to care for a horse or pet it.

Kizzie has chickens, and so they’re not just for laying eggs. There’s something that’s healing around chickens. She has one. She’s got a few. One is called Tenders and it loves to be scratched above his hind legs and will cluck around her until she does that.

Mike: Did you say its name was Tenders?

Orla: Yeah, and she’s got one called Barbeque too. Yes.

[Laughter]

Mike: Oh, Kizzie, you are now forever Chicken Lady to me, just so you know. [Laughter]

Orla: It’s true, you know. She’s got a great photo of her chicken on her shoulder. In fact, that comes to mind.

But seriously, if you have chickens at a senior living community. I have a friend, a former colleague out on the East Coast who does this. She’s got a business called Rent a Hen. The senior living communities actually have chickens there.

What happens is the residents find so much entertainment in the chickens that they get up out of bed. They get dressed, and they love going outside. They’re getting vitamin D, and they love sitting and watching these chickens strut their stuff around the property because they’re hilarious. There is value to them beyond laying eggs, and so I envision a place like that with live plants.

One thing I also envision, in terms of this dream living community, is that it’s intergenerational, that there are different ages at the community. It’s not just for the old folks, if you will, but could have a day center there or even college students there. They do that, I think, in the Netherlands now. They connect the different generations. That’s what I envision too.

They could all work out in the greenhouse together, for example. The college students could get their skills working on the farm, say there’s a farm, and while eating over dinner with residents. That’s my dream senior living community, for sure.

Mike: That sounds absolutely amazing. I think I would go there and play with chickens and horses, for sure. That sounds awesome.

Orla: [Laughter] Yeah.

Mike: For the senior living providers out there in the podcast sphere, what are three things that you think they could do today that would make an immediate positive difference in the lives of the residents?

Orla: Well, immediate. Hmm… Well, first and foremost, my hat goes off to the senior living providers. Truly, they have hard jobs. They always have had hard jobs, the staff there.

Mike: No doubt.

Orla: I worked in a community. Yep, yep, I worked in a community and it was hard then and it wasn’t during COVID. It’s just a lot of work. It’s a big responsibility. It’s bigger than ever now. I applaud anyone in that space right now.

In terms of what could be helpful and immediate, simple things. You could just open the windows and get some fresh air, some fresh ventilation. That’s a really good first sweep for the residents, for example. Now, I know we need safety, so always whatever applies there with safety in mind. But, when possible, fresh air.

Live plants. Not fake plants. Put some live plants in the community. That’s what I think would be great. Residents could water them, help the facilities director or I know that there are challenges around the social distancing right now. We’d have to keep those in mind but, for now, I’d put in live plants.

I think, when possible, have the residents walk outdoors. Get some fresh air and some vitamin D, that sunlight. We all know about seasonal affected disorder.

Mike: Mm-hmm.

Orla: It’s called SAD. This is real stuff, which is not fandangle studies or not approaches to care. Residents need their vitamin D. They need natural sunlight.

I think, on a longer-term, to provide the residents with opportunities to do some things that are meaningful. Not just entertaining, but that fulfill the residents’ spirits, their whole selves. That’s what I always try to remember. It’s not just providing tasks and entertainment. It’s what can we do to nurture the souls of the residents in meaningful, purposeful ways. That’s not as immediate, necessarily, but if you give a resident a watering can and point them in the right direction of the plants, that’s pretty immediate and that’s pretty easy, so that’s where I’ll leave that.

Mike: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be super complicated, infrastructure-based things to put in. Just really small things that you can do that make a huge difference. Absolutely. Cynthia is absolutely going to love those ideas, I’m sure. I think that’s awesome.

Orla, this has been absolutely freakin’ amazing having you hang out with me today.

Orla: [Laughter]

Mike: If people want to find out more about Eldergrow, how to they stalk you on the interwebs? Where do they find you? How do they get all the information they need to take part in the awesome programs that you all put together?

Orla: Aw! You are so awesome. Thank you. Flattery will take you places.

[Laughter]

Orla: Thank you. We’re eldergrow.org. It’s pretty easy. Just remember it’s .org not .com and you’ll find us quite readily that way, eldergrow.org.

Mike: Cool. Do you have social media sites as well?

Orla: We do, indeed, on all the usual suspects: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. We’re definitely there, so you can find us there and check us out there too.

Mike: All right. There you go, everybody. Check out the Eldergrow website. Check them out on social media. Look at all the awesome stuff that they have to make the universe a better place. Orla, thank you so much. This has been awesome. I can’t wait to talk to you again soon.

Orla: Thank you so much, Mike. Great speaking with you. I appreciate the opportunity.

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Mike: Well, there you have it. Totally worth the wait. Wouldn’t you agree? If you feel like doing us a favor, please subscribe to the show and follow us on all the social media platforms to help us share our awesomeness with the world. Just search for Cosmic Soup as well as 3rd3rd Marketing. Thanks again for being the amazing human beings that you are and we’ll talk to you soon on Cosmic Soup.

[music]