It's never too late to learn to live green

July 23, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Hosea sanders shows us how some seniors are continuing to connect with the environment in today's "Live Green with ABC 7" report.

Dementia and physical ailments can rob seniors of their long-time love of gardening. But one South Side retirement home is finding ways for even its most fragile residents to live green.

It's a pastime that keeps this community of seniors both active and engaged.

"The one great thing about this is that it helps them connect to their environment. It helps them connect to each other," said Rebecca Reif, Montgomery Place program director.

At the Montgomery Place retirement home in Hyde Park, two rooftop gardens have been installed. But they don't just provide great scenery for residents. They are designed to accommodate physical challenges.

"On the dementia has a rooftop garden that has a circular, elevated planter. So you can sit in a chair or wheel up with a wheelchair, and you can plant which they do. They plant vegetables and flowers up there," said Michael Apa, executive director of Montgomery Place.

Alzheimer's research conducted by the University of Wisconsin school of architecture helped influence the layout.

"The walkway on the second floor has what we call a wandering pathway," Apa said. "So someone with more moderate to late stage Alzheimer's or dementia has difficulty processing whether one turns right or left. And so we round the pathway out so they don't have worry about that decision."

Handrails are in place along the walking path of the other rooftop garden to help patients recovering from joint replacement surgeries. They use the natural setting as part of their workouts.

Mary Lou Stevens recently had a hip replaced.

"You don't feel the pain because there's laughter going on. Just a lot of good things. You feel at home," Stevens said.

Montgomery Place is also home to some retirees who live independently.

Frank Wang is one of many residents who take advantage of the greenhouse and garden space in the courtyard.

"I always love to see something grow -- even these weeds," Wang said. "Up there, mostly vegetables. The green vegetables, the Swiss chard and the Chinese chives and onions. I'm a spicy man. I love all those."

The produce grown on the Montgomery Place rooftops is often used in their on-site cooking class or turned into gifts. Their rosemary and thyme, for example, goes to make soap for residents to give during the holidays.

To get a glimpse of the view from their rooftop, go to

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