Grounded Gardening Advice for People with Restricted Mobility

Millie Fuller is a creative copywriter at Content ‘n’ Coffee. She has a love of life (and caffeine). When she’s not at her laptop, you’ll find her in the garden or reading. Check out her latest blog post:

Grounded Gardening Advice for People with Restricted Mobility

Gardening is a peaceful and satisfying pastime that can help people improve their mental wellbeing by connecting with nature. Digging in dirt and weeding can be physically taxing and challenging for those with restricted mobility.

Thankfully, numerous tools are available that are designed for those with impairments or restricted physical capabilities. Furthermore, modifications can be made to make your outside environment more accessible.

6 methods for making gardens more accessible

Design doesn’t have to suffer in order to be accessible. It’s indeed possible to make your garden more practical without losing its aesthetic appeal.

Taking the sting out of stairs

Installing ramps to varying levels of your garden – such as patios, decking, and staircases – can let gardeners reach all sections of the space without climbing steps. Any ramp should have a mild gradient and wide, non-skid surface. This will make it easier for those with mobility impairments or needing a wheelchair to climb and descend the ramp.

Handrails and grab bars should be strategically placed

Handrails in the garden can benefit people who need help to navigate its different levels, particularly if they’re unstable on their feet or need a cane.

Dwarf fruit trees are pretty, yet practical

Dwarf fruit trees are functional, visually appealing, and simple to maintain. They grow to a maximum height of 6 feet, making them more manageable, requiring less room than traditional trees, and may be planted in pots or raised beds. They’re also simpler to harvest due to their branches being lower hanging than those on larger trees.

Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries are all available as dwarf trees. Their ‘breed’ names are as follows:

  • Apple varieties include ‘Braeburn,’ ‘Red Falstaff,’ and ‘James Grieve.’
  • Pear varieties include ‘Concorde’ and ‘Doyenne de Comice.’
  • ‘Avalon Pride’ is a peach variety 
  • Plum varieties include ‘Victoria’ and ‘Black Amber’
  • Cherry varieties include ‘Stella,’ ‘Sylvia,’ and ‘Sunburst.’

Elevated planters and beds for those with limited mobility

Raised beds and planters can help those who are wheelchair users or have trouble standing for lengthy periods of time. They minimise the need to reach or lean over, allowing plants to be accessed easier while sitting or standing. Wheelchairs may also be manoeuvred against the bed to take advantage of its stability while working.

Low maintenance shrubs

Plants that require minimal maintenance and occasional watering – like lavender or rosemary – are an excellent choice for those who struggle to care for their garden. They can be grown in raised beds or planters, so a lot of stooping or lifting isn’t required. Additional low-care shrubs include:

  • Rhododendrons or azaleas
  • Rosemary or thyme
  • Boxwood or holly

Clear walkways and paths

Keeping pathways clear improves accessibility. Paths should be broad enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers and made of non-slip material, such as cement, brickwork, or slabs.

5 tools for restricted mobility

Adjustable seats for wheelbarrows

Anyone regardless of height or size might easily move their tools about the garden without having to stoop over or exert themselves thanks to an adjustable wheelbarrow seat.

Specialised tools

Those with restricted mobility may benefit from long-handled tools since they don’t have to bend to the same extent. Long-handled cultivators, garden shears, and trowels are examples of adaptable tools that make the task easier by enabling the user to stand and maintain a stable footing while caring for their plants.

Robotic lawnmowers

While they are made for everyone, those who use wheelchairs or can only travel short distances will benefit the most. Robotic lawn mowers have different battery lives and decibel levels and are compact enough to fit between plant rows without harming them.

Mechanical weed pullers

The purpose of weed pullers is to enable users to work upright. The weed is pulled out of the ground at the root by a spike that is embeds the soil. However, they can’t be used by those who aren’t able to stand since they need to be pushed into the ground with the feet in order to work.

Carts for gardening

Garden carts come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, yet all have a level surface so you can easily transport equipment or plants about the garden.


Here are just a few ways to make outside spaces more accessible. Although gardening is an activity that can be quite enjoyable, those with mobility issues may struggle with it. Fortunately, even individuals without gardens can enjoy the pleasure of seeing an indoor plant grow.

Alive on Demand could help with CQC ratings!

CQC ratings play a big part in all of our lives. Whether you are trying to improve your rating or hold on to that ‘Outstanding’, it is a thought consistently at the forefront of our minds. From attracting future residents to reassuring existing families and loved ones; a good CQC rating can play a big part in one’s decision to choose a care home.

“The service can almost be diagnostic and when we use [the content] we certainly look at…how the residents respond to what we put on the screen. By doing that, we can then tailor what we produce in the future and what we give them to enjoy”.
– Elizabeth Wilson, Glebe House Care Home

Alive on Demand (AoD) is a dementia-friendly video-streaming platform, with its content informed by years of conversations with older people and their support networks. Each video is supplemented by additional resources to delve deeper into a topic of an individual (or group)’s choosing. Related videos can be signposted to, and there is opportunity to expand learning with facts, quizzes and activities.  With over 300 carefully curated and original videos, using life-story work you are likely to find something that will resonate with everybody. Alive go one step further and, with AoD being a collaborative platform, welcome suggestions for future content, feedback if particular content isn’t having the desired response, and any other ideas that residents and staff alike would like to see. This collaborative experience really highlights that person-centred approach. 

Alive on Demand can showcase home’s responsiveness to individual’s needs: by demonstrating that staff are taking the time to talk to individuals to discover engaging content that can spark conversation and engagement. Utilising digital interventions shows your home is innovative and open to new approaches. Finding ways to incorporate technology into your day-to-day provision puts your practice ahead of the curve, encourages learning and development for all.   

Demonstrating the above can contribute to keeping that ‘Outstanding’ rating or elevate a home from ‘RI’ to ‘Good’ or from ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’. Being able to show CQC that you have Alive on Demand as a resource is an incredible tool to have ready for those surprise inspections.  

See how Bristol Care Homes have introduced Alive on Demand into their homes, and how it has benefitted them.

Teleconference Calls Commence to Connect Gardening Group

As members of the Alive Lawrence Weston Community Gardening Group can’t meet up together in person at the moment, we have launched a teleconference group to connect them for a garden-themed group call.

For the past few years, the group had run in Blaise Weston Court, meeting weekly for accessible gardening and socialising. Since we can’t see each other at the moment, members were offered a group chat in addition to their weekly befriending calls from the facilitator and everyone jumped at the chance. “It would be revitalising,” said one member of the group, while another commented that “It would make me feel less cut off.”

We began on Monday 8th Feb for an RSPB Birdwatch themed chat. After catching up as a group for the first time in nearly a year, we discussed the birds we had seen whilst doing the birdwatch from our windows over the previous weekend. One group member then offered to read some poems about birds he had written, and a group decision to talk about spring next time was agreed upon.

This Monday (15th Feb), we talked about spring flowers and what we could start growing on our windowsills ready for when we can meet as a group again, as “It’s nice to look ahead”. We did a spring flowers quiz and planned next week to share recipes with fruit and veg we can grow ourselves to inspire each other to eat more healthily and adventurously! One member said, “It’s lovely to hear all your voices here talking with me”, and another “It is good to keep in touch.”

We will read poems, share sightings of plants seen on walks and tips for growing our own, and most importantly, share these ideas as a group weekly until we can meet in person again.

With what we learn from this group call, Alive will be developing a garden-themed teleconference chat room that will be open to the public to help connect people through nature.

We hope to reintroduce our face-to-face sessions as soon as COVID-19 government guidelines allow and are working hard on making these safe.

If you would like to register interest for when this does open up you can contact Alive on 0117 377 4756 or

Keeping intergenerational links alive

Following the challenges of COVID-19, Alive were thrilled to restart our intergenerational activities again, in October this year.

There has been a lot of creative thinking, a different approach and some learning along the way.

Alive have been running intergenerational activity sessions, linking schools and care homes in Bristol, since 2012. Our current Access All Ages project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, began expanding our intergenerational work into Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Hampshire in 2019. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these partnerships had to sadly suspend their activity sessions in March. However, with a bit of help from technology, we have successfully been able to start delivery of activity sessions connecting care home residents with schools again this term. 

Through consultations with our participants, we have found a flexible approach of using live online activity sessions over Zoom, or practical hands-on activities, has allowed care home staff to reconnect with this project, and with their partnered school. Residents and pupils are now able to see each other on-screen, share their experiences, show paintings, play games and just have a lot of fun again!

Online sessions have not been suitable for all care homes, so instead the residents and pupils are doing hands-on practical activities such as arts and crafts, to share with each other. Activities this term have included making joint murals for Remembrance Day, writing letters and making Christmas cards. 

The use of online sharing platforms, such as Seesaw, has also been a new addition to this project. Seesaw allows schools and care homes to communicate in-between sessions, by securely sending messages, photos or videos. During lockdown some schools started using these platforms to share classwork, so being able to use them in this project has been a really positive addition, and something to continue going forward.

We have learnt so much from adapting this project to meet the restrictions of the pandemic and we continue to react to ever changing circumstances. But seeing the positive reactions of the pupils and residents has been amazing. With increased social isolation due to lockdown, ensuring these relationships continue is more important than ever and we look forward to growing those connections further in 2021. 

“The session was wonderful. All the children were so happy to reconnect with the home and had lots of fun, they haven’t stopped talking about it. You’ve been in our hearts and our prayers throughout lockdown and we’ve really missed seeing everyone.” St Peter’s Primary, partnered with Avalon Residential Home

For more information about the Access All Ages project, please contact the Project Manager at or call our office on 0117 377 4756. 

Accessing Technology as a Tool for Engagement

Alive’s amazing CEO, Isobel Jones, was invited to chat all things tech with the wonderful Hilary Woodhead, NAPA’s Executive Director.

We have always seen the benefits of using technology in care homes and now, more than ever, these are invaluable tools to keep older people connected to their families.

It’s important to mention how hard care staff have been working to adapt during these times. Here at Alive, we have also been constantly trialling and updating new practices to be able to continue to offer sessions and training, for both residents and staff of care homes alike. For us, this has meant trying out sessions on online platforms.

But it hasn’t come without challenges… we have had to overcome lots of problems for these meetings to continue. A lot of homes have struggled to get online. There have been difficulties with accessing wifi in older buildings with thick walls, staff not having the knowledge or experience with technology, sessions being harder to access for anyone cognitively impaired, the cost of devices and adaptors and cables and connections, the list goes on…but we have found that we can overcome most of these problems with a little bit of training. We have been offering tech training which you can contact us directly about or check out the detailed notes available from our resource library.

Alive believe that technology can be an invaluable tool for improving the quality of life for older people in care.  Of course it depends how it is used, but it helps us to get to know those we care for and personalise their engagement and activity. The care industry must move with the amazing resources at our finger tips. 

It doesn’t need to be complicated tech; It can be as simple as headphones and an mp3 player. The incredible video, that recently went viral, of the former prima ballerina, Marta C Gonzalez who was living with Alzeimer’s before she died last year, hightlights how music can stir memory and emotion. This example of the dancer, while unable to access movement in the bottom part of her body, remembering strong and delicate movement with her arms and showing emotion on her face, is a truly moving and remarkable site to withold.

Tech will never replace person centred interaction and during these times we have noticed how much we miss this physical engagement and seeing people face to face. However, iPads are a library of information, that we can tailor to individuals. We can access videos, talks, podcasts, pictures and communication platforms relevant to each personal taste and needs. We can really use this tool to respond to people’s stories, saving specific files in order to customise the experience. The main benefit to using this media is having it all at your finger tips and the speed to search on the spot.

There are loads of new technonlogies that can make life easier for people living with cognitive impairment, for example voice recognition components such as Alexa and Siri can be paired with other devices to play music, video or radio and can also be used to set reminders for people living with memory loss and confusion.

You don’t have to have the most expensive tech to benefit from these advances. Even access to a radio tuned into a favourite channel can offer nostalgia and engagement for an individual.

You can watch Isobel’s interesting chat here. If you wish to contact us about anything discussed please email or call 0117 377 4756.


In August Alive Activities received funding from The National Lottery Communities Fund, the Department of Sport, Media and Culture and the Dunhill Medical trust to run an intergenerational social action project across East and South Bristol as part of Care Home Friends and Neighbours: Intergenerational Linking.

The project works to link up older people living in care homes with younger people between the ages of 5 and 14. A key focus of this work will be to promote social action across the generations, empowering both younger and older people to have a positive impact on their environment and the community.

How to get involved

Each group or volunteer wanting to be involved will be linked up with a local care home. Alive will help care home residents and young people exchange stories and share experiences of lockdown. The project will help forge new connections by inviting participants to perform ‘good turns’ for each other and boost each other’s wellbeing.

With Christmas fast approaching and a second lockdown in full swing our focus will be on maintaining community connections and solidarity despite the challenges of covid-19.

Below are of activities that care homes, youth groups, schools, families and volunteers have been invited to participate in as part of One Good Turn.

If you are interested in participating in any aspect of the project as a group, home or individual please contact Harriet on

How can you help?

Wellbeing boxes  Volunteers and participants can make up wellbeing boxes, wrapped up and decorated. Boxes might include paintings, treasure found out on a walk, hand cream, letters from younger people, lavender bags, messages of support, seed to plant, poetry books, sea shells, friendship bracelets etc. Wellbeing boxes will then be given to residents who do not have many visitors or family to deliver Christmas presents.

Jar of Joy Participants can fill a jam jar of joy for others in their community. This involves writing message of hope and support for others to show them they are being thought about during this difficult time. It can include pictures, messages, seeds to plant, puzzles, pictures of the participant (drawn or photographed), sea shells, objects from nature etc. These will then be passed on from one generation to another in a joy jar exchange.

Carol concerts Families and individuals are invited to walk along to a carehome carpark and sing a song or two for care home residents. Alternatively please record yourselves, friends and family singing a carol and send it to project staff at Alive Activities ( these will be shared with older people who may not be able to get out at present or receive visitors due to restrictions.

Record a special song or a poem Young people are invited to record themselves and their friends singing a song requested by a resident. It may be a first dance wedding song or a significant song from their youth. Song requests can be passed on to project staff who will hold a list of songs. If you wish to make a request or record a song please contact Harriet.

Read a book or a poem to a younger child or older participant: If you are at a care home whereby the residents are interested in performing a ‘good turn’ we can pair older people up with a younger person to listen to an audiobook together, read a story or watch a short film. iPads can be provided for this activity and Alive will help to organise along with families and/or staff. Alternatively you may wish to read a short storm, poem or chapter of a book to an older person who may be having trouble with their sight.

Create a hamper for a foodbank This is for residents who want to volunteer themselves or younger volunteers or groups who may want to help with delivery. Shoeboxes, hampers, materials and food can always be provided by Alive if additional budget is needed. Care home residents can then decorate and compile the boxes/ hampers them themselves. They may want to write a personal message for those receiving the food. A Christmas message perhaps or a message of hope and support. Young volunteers will then arrive to collect the packages from staff and deliver them to foodbanks by foot or by bike. Volunteers will take photos along their delivery journey to share with the older people to let them know their package has arrived.

Become a pen pal or offer a regular befriending phone call Throughout lockdown many older people living in care have not had the opportunities to go out into their community or receive visitors. Having to shield has resulted in some older people feeling ‘set apart’ or separate from their wider community. This can be a lonely experience, despite the huge efforts of staff many participants would love to receive letters and phone calls from volunteers. Making a new connection and hearing about the experience of others, especially of different ages and backgrounds makes for an interesting activity. If you know of an older person who would like to take part in a befriending call or penpal scheme or would like to volunteer yourself please contact us and we will arrange the first steps.

Knit for another This is an opportunity for both residents who are interested in volunteering or volunteers who have a knack for knitting. Residents in care homes may want to ‘knit for another’ as a way of contributing to their community. There are opportunities to knit blankets and hats for the homeless or to donate to foodbacks and local charities. Alternatively if you are a young volunteer between the ages of 5-14 and would like to knit a brightly coloured scarf, hat, purse or jumper for an older person we can match you up with someone who might not otherwise receive many gifts or visitors.

Up Our Street Residents may not be able to go out much at present but younger people can. Volunteers can take pictures and short films of a particular journey or place that are significant to care home residents who cannot get out. For example: a resident may of frequented a particular park, lived on a particular street or spent time working in a set part of Bristol. Residents can request that young volunteers visit the area, do a set journey, and take photos and films of a particular street. Young people can then report back to the older person about what they saw and discuss why the area is significant to the resident themselves. A shared journey. Technology and support arranging this can be provided by Alive Activities. Please contact Harriet if you are interested.

Record a message of hope: Older people have lived a long and full life and have wisdom and life experience that may prove valuable or interesting for younger generations. Some older people may of lived through the war or other challenging periods of history. 2020 has been a turbulent and challenging year in many ways. Perhaps the older people you know would want to share a Christmas message or message or support and joy for their communities. This can be done in a letter or filmed or recorded. We will then play this message to younger people and their families who will have the option to reply. We want those living in care to be empowered and acknowledged. Hearing their opinions and messages is important and empowering for both the residents involved and those receiving their words.

Draw the view from here How about an art exchange? To start up a connection with someone of a different age and background to you why not paint a picture or tell a story to someone about your day?  You may want to paint ‘the view from here.’ This could be the view from your window, the view of a shared lounge or garden, the view of a favourite friend, family member or member of staff. Alongside the drawing young volunteers and residents could include a short message or list 10 things about themselves, their lives and their interests. Alive will then help ‘exchange’ the art or stories and pair up older and younger participants. You could write a story together exchanging a few pages at a time. Whatever your idea we’d love to hear about it and help. Zoom meetings and sharing meetings to discuss the art, stories or letters can also be arranged if requested. Contact us to find out more.

One Good Turn 2021 and beyond

Once Christmas has passed and we’ve brushed off mince pie crumbs and rebooted dusty laptops, we will aim to begin 2021 with some intergenerational resolutions. New participants and those already involved will be invited to pair together across the generations to pledge their ‘one good turns’ for 2021. Lockdown has shown us the importance of connection and solidarity throughout our communities so our new year activities will involve giving something back to our communities and neighbours and collaborative campaigning for a better world.

Participants can drop in and out of this project either performing one off good turns or random acts of kindness. Alternatively, they can choose to be involved for longer, in which case they will become a part of the core intergeneration team. Working together across the generations to perform acts of positivity locally and further afield.

These are just some examples of the activities, ideas and ‘good turns’ that will be taking place over the next 18 months. We would love you – volunteers, staff, residents and families – to come up with your own ideas and ‘good turns’ based on your interests and ideas. We will then facilitate and foster intergenerational connections between older and younger people across the city. At Alive we believe that a thriving and healthy community includes all members of society regardless of background or age. We want to focus on the power of participants to bring joy to one another and collaborate across the generations to have a positive impact on wellbeing of both the individual and the community as a whole.

Gardening sessions return to the community

Alive are delighted to be able to support people, in the community of Lawrence Weston, to get growing again!

We will soon restart Therapeutic Horticulture sessions at Blaise Weston Court with members of the Lawrence Weston Community Gardening Group.

For the past few years we have met weekly at Blaise Weston Court, and since having to suspend the sessions, the group members have been desperate to get stuck in again! From October members will be supported in 121 sessions tailored to their interests and capacities; with bitesize activities such as sowing seeds, pruning shrubs, making bird feeders and tending to our vegetable gardens.

Over lockdown many elderly people have become further isolated from family and friends, as well as the outside world. We will help reconnect people, both socially and with nature, chatting and reminiscing, growing plants and watching birds and wildlife in the grounds.

Socially distanced Covid safe sessions will run every Wednesday come rain or shine, taking shelter in the centre’s memory room in poor weather, offering a choice of mobile or seated sensory activities.

We hope to be able to open this up to the public eventually and are working hard on making it safe and sticking to COVID-19 Government Guidelines.

If you would like to register interest for when this does open up you can contact Alive on 0117 377 4756 or

Help us crowdfund for our allotment toilet!

Alive has been gifted an allotment by the kind people at Charlton Road allotments in North Bristol. Over lockdown, a team of volunteers has worked tirelessly to turn a barren plot into a flourishing allotment, though to be able to use the space to support those living with dementia a small amount of funding is needed to provide suitable toilets.

The plot will aim to support those living with early-stage dementia to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of gardening without the pressure of maintaining a whole allotment.

The allotment will also have a social shed for tea and cake and a space for carers and loved ones to relax and chat to other people in their situation. Weekly workshops for those living with more advanced dementia will also take place.

The compost toilet will be suitable for wheelchair users and will allow us to run horticultural therapy sessions on the site.

Donate to our crowdfunder here.

Anything over our goal will be used to build sheds to socialise in and store our equipment. Anything more will be used to pave parts of the allotment to make it more accessible.

The team are also looking for donations of equipment, tools and building materials. If you are able to help with any of the following items we would be incredibly grateful.

  • Edging shears
  • Pruning shears
  • Strimmer
  • Hard-wearing dustpans and brushes
  • Buckets
  • Dibbers
  • Shovels
  • Potting trays/modules
  • Bamboo canes
  • Concrete Slabs
  • Bird boxes / tables / baths
  • Sensory decorations / garden ornaments
  • Garden seats / stacking chairs
  • Plastic crates
  • Garden bench
  • Timber (eg scaf boards, decking, anything for making raised beds)
  • Compost
  • Labels
  • Twine
  • Horticultural grit
  • Horticultural sand
  • Seeds
  • Bulbs
  • Seed trays
  • Sheets of perspex
  • Horticultural fleece
  • Weed suppressant sheets
  • Netting, both fine to keep butterflies off and wider for birds
  • PVC wire mesh
  • A boot scraper
  • Wire
  • Tomato grow bags
  • Old bottles from water coolers

For more information about getting involved with our dementia friendly allotment, either as a volunteer, person living with dementia or as a gardener then please contact our Community Engagement Manager on or call our office on 0117 377 4756.

Supporting you in Activity

Care Homes have worked so hard through the recent pandemic in caring for their residents. Alive and The Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service have come together to provide online support, ideas and inspiration to Care Homes to help them continue to support their residents in meaningful activity. With two different forums, they aim to ensure the whole home approach to activity is maintained through these challenging times.

Activity Cupboard

Aimed at care and activity staff, this 2 hour long forum will provide activity ideas and inspiration for those who are delivering activity on a day to day basis. Find more information here

Book Today: Thursday 20th August, 2020 09:30-11:30
Wednesday 16th September, 2020 09:30-11:30

Managers Forum

This shorter, 45 min forum looks at the importance of maintaining good activity and how to deliver in the current restrictions and limitations. Find more information here.

Book Today: Wednesday 26th August, 2020 at 15:30
Wednesday 16th September, 2020 at 15:30

For further information contact Alive on 0117 377 4756 or

Telephone reminiscence

As part of the Support Hub, at Alive we are able to offer small groups of older people time to chat together on the phone.

Using a teleconference facility, we can link up people in their homes to have a group chat. All people need to do is to call a number we will give you, and we can link you all up.

We are leading reminiscence groups – talking about sport, home, jobs, holidays – all sorts of things and just loving hearing all the stories and laughter. We are approaching existing memory cafes and local groups that are already set up to see if they would like us to lead them for free. It’s a great and simple way of keeping people connected. We can also do zoom sessions and incorporate exercise and gentle movement too.

Please email or call 0117 377 4756 if you know of a group that would like to take part. We recommend 6 people maximum for a teleconference group, so if your group is bigger, we can run a couple for you to ensure everyone is still connected.

We want people to stay connected and keep chatting, and this is a great way of doing that. Hope to chat to you all soon!

As part of The Virtual Activity Hub, we are offering individuals the chance to dial-in for a chat on a Wednesday morning at 11am. These chats are completely FREE: funded by St Monica Trust and form part of the Support Hub for Older people, which is convened by Age UK Bristol.

Please email or call 0117 377 4756 if you or a loved one would like to be involved.