San José Garden

The San José Home is another of the pavilions located within the Pequeño Cottolengo. It is home to 48 senior adults whose average age is 70 years, and whose pathologies are mostly severe cognitive deficits, autism, epilepsy and senile dementia in advanced stages.

The San José Home has an interior garden open to its residents; however, it is rarely visited by them. This is due, in part, to the lack of attractive natural elements that stimulate and favor their connection and interaction with Nature, as well as the lack of shade in the summer, problems of accessibility in its design and lack of maintenance.

To remedy these issues and offer these adults the well-being they deserve, we again joined Fundación Ilumina and Pequeño Cottolengo to transform this space into a healing garden. In terms of its design, the construction of spaces within the pavilion with views to the exterior of the home are being considered, so that its users can enjoy the garden throughout the year. The design will include improved access to the garden using soft pavements, ramps, doors that are easy to open, and providing shade at the entrances to avoid sudden glares when entering the space. Seats will also be installed at the entrances for those who are unable to walk very far, or those who do not wish to, as well as support elements to give a sense of safety for users, such as guardrails and seats placed frequently, every 7 or 10 meters. A large variety of plant species will be planted, to add a variety of colors, smells, textures and movement from the wind. Paths of various lengths and shapes will be placed along the garden, to encourage users to walk along them. Lastly, there will be spaces that invite users to either be alone or in a group, as well as cleared spaces for activities, and others for gardening or horticultural therapy.

“The garden of the San José Home offers some ideal conditions to think about this new intervention. The first thing I would like to propose, as an almost basic theoretical defense, is that we have a right to a dignified life, but also to die with dignity. Many of the people who live in the Pequeño Cottolengo have spent over half their lives there and, eventually, will go to the San José Home to die. It is fair to die in peace. In terms of benefits and scope, there is a great deal of research that shows how activities performed in a garden (walking, sunbathing, socializing, etc.) have a positive impact on the health of the elderly, as they slow the development of neurodegenerative conditions and significantly improve their quality of life.” Marcela Tenorio, neuropsychologist.