LONDON, May 27 (UPI) -- A project in Britain that paired seniors and gardening enthusiasts increased the quality of life of both and saved healthcare funds, officials said.
Sarah Jackson, a horticulturalist, found volunteers who had no access to land to plant a garden with older people who wanted to maintain their gardens but could no longer work on them anymore.
Three years later, Jackson said not only did the elderly in the program improve their mobility, but with their increased contact with the younger gardeners they were less isolated and showed fewer signs of depression, The Daily Telegraph reported.
An official audit of the project -- involving 46 older people in a single borough in south London -- concluded it could have saved the taxpayer as much as $780,000 a year in that area.
Paul Burstow, the care minister, praised the project and said similar programs could be set up across the country involving other areas besides gardening as part of an overhaul of the social care system.
Jane Harris and Stephanie Sexton, health and social care consultants, used research on the link between mobility levels, falls, hip fractures, anxiety and depression and estimated the program could reduce the number of physician visits.
For the seniors who said the project prevented existing conditions getting worse, the potential saving was almost $17,000 per person, the Telegraph said.