Ruth Brownstone, an Eden Gardens’ dementia care community resident, enjoys the new forest trail that was cleared thanks to in-kind donations. It is hoped donations lead to trail paving. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Seniors care centre wants to make its new forest trail more accessible

Amenity at Eden Gardens beneficial to residents, says horticultural therapy practitioner

A forest trail has been established at a dementia care facility in Nanaimo thanks to community support, and staff hope the same generosity will pave the trail.

Bianca van der Stoel, a horticultural therapy practitioner at Eden Gardens, said an untouched forest stand on the Northfield Road dementia care centre grounds caught the attention of residents and she organized an effort to create a trail there.

Van der Stoel said she hopes that someone may have a connection to a concrete or paving company or be willing to donate “a lump sum of money” to help out as she wants to see all residents enjoying the area. The benefits are numerous, she said.

“The fact that they’re walking and they’re stretching and they’re reaching and touching things and even pausing to take a deep breath, in a way is wonderful for their physical [selves]…” van der Stoel said. “We had an elder who I was sitting out there with, and she just naturally began to speak about some of the difficulties of her childhood, but that nature for her was always an escape and was always a safe place. From that moment, she voiced to me that she felt safe, that she felt happy. She was able to process some of these emotions that I don’t think elders are often given the opportunity to process, but in that, she felt totally safe and secure.”

RELATED: Mural unveiled at Nanaimo’s Eden Gardens

The space has extra value as the pandemic has put limitations on residents, van der Stoel said. She said there have been fewer opportunities for social stimulation and because of that, loneliness and sadness.

“These people miss their families and miss the routine that was existing before,” said van der Stoel. “For anybody who’s experiencing deep sadness like that, I think that nature can bring moments of peace, maybe not permanently, but at least for half an hour they get to feel peace and hopefulness and growth and vibrancy around them.”

Ruth Brownstone and Shirley Petersen, residents at Eden Gardens, said they enjoy the forest.

“I come out here every day to get out of the building, so it is very beneficial, so that I can have some kind of place of peace,” said Brownstone.

“I like to be outdoors all the time and I don’t like to feel that I am actually in a building when I really am,” said Petersen. “I would like to not be in a building and so, to have a place of peace … it’s quite good so far.”

People seeking to help out can contact van der Stoel at 250-760-2636 or at To donate money, contact Sandy Parise, Eden Gardens’ executive assistant, at 250-760-2646 or

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