SINGAPORE - A strong aroma of pandan leaves and the scent of garlic chives is in the air at the Therapeutic Garden in Choa Chua Kang Park. The brightly red hues of the hibiscus are also clearly evident.
The selection of plant species here are deliberate, planned to make it easier for people to interact with nature and help improve the mental well-being for visitors of all ages, especially seniors , including those with dementia.
The newest 900 sq m National Parks Board (NParks) Therapeutic Garden was opened on Saturday (July 7), the first of its kind in the western part of Singapore. There are three other such gardens at HortPark, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Tiong Bahru Park. Two more will be opened by the first quarter of 2019, bringing the total to six around the island.
The growing network of Therapeutic Gardens is connected to Singapore's ageing population. Providing such a network was an initiative outlined in the Action Plan for Successful Ageing report announced by the Ministerial Committee on Ageing in 2015.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who officiated at the opening of the Therapeutic Garden at Choa Chu Kang Park on Saturday, said that parks played an integral role in the ageing process for Singaporeans.
He said: "Population ageing can be a positive force in our societies, if we can enable seniors to remain healthy, active, and engaged in society."
"Our vision is to shape an enabling city that can allow seniors to move around actively and safely.
"Our parks can play a big role in realising this vision," he added.
A specific selection of plant species is used in each of the Therapeutic Garden's four zones to evoke strong memories and engage the senses. These include plants that are fragrant, edible or medicinal, coloured or textured and those which attract birds and butterflies.
There are also wheelchair-friendly spots in the garden. There is, for instance, a fitness area with some stations meant for those in wheelchairs and sloped planters to allow them to touch the plants.
All four current Therapeutic Gardens have been designed using similar science-based principles but each differ in their individual characteristics.
NParks group director for parks, Mr Chuah Hock Seong, said: "The new Therapeutic Garden at Choa Chu Kang Park is the first in the network to be located next to an existing three-Generational Community Garden, a children's play area, an allotment garden, and a fitness area. This means there is potential for different types of programming within the park allowing for great interaction within the community."