RIFLE — When Larry Velasquez planted his rose bushes this year, it wasn’t just because they were beautiful. Velasquez planted the roses in honor of his wife, Barbara, who passed away last month at the Colorado Veterans Home here.
“She really loved roses,” said Velasquez, 88, who has gardened for years. “We were married for 64 years. When you lose your companion of 64 years, you can’t just sit around and pout. This gives me something to do.”
The Velasquezes had lived in Battlement Mesa for 26 years before recently moving to the Colorado Veterans Home because Barbara was suffering from dementia.
Marilee Rippy, a volunteer and founding board member of the Community Gardens of Glenwood Springs, who works with a lot of seniors in planting gardens and harvesting them, said gardening is good for seniors, especially those suffering from the loss of a loved one.
“It’s a therapeutic thing having your hands in the dirt,” Rippy said. “And this generation grew up without a grocery store nearby and everything was not canned. This takes them back. It’s something they know.”
Rippy noted that seniors who have never gardened before might not be as apt to try it for the first time, but those who have will likely enjoy it.
“For Larry, that felt good to him, even if it possibly caused him some [physical] pain,” Rippy said. “And it’s something he can do outdoors.”
Rippy said the Velasquezes’ home in Battlement Mesa was beautiful and always immaculate with lots of flowers and plants in and around it.
And even though they may not be living in their homes anymore, the seniors still look forward to working in the community gardens, Rippy said.
“It’s a big deal in their day,” she said. “They plant, water and harvest. It’s a solitary activity, but it attracts other people.”
And just getting out and moving around puts them in a better frame of mind.
“Exercise is a good cure for depression,” Rippy said. “And gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the nation.”
Velasquez said he had a hard time finding his rose bushes, but eventually purchased 27 plants of red, pink and yellow roses. He contemplated where he was going to place them on the plot outside of the nursing home, before he gingerly got down on one knee and began planting.
“It’s still tough,” he said, referring to the loss of his wife. “She kept saying, ‘Larry, please take me home.’ And now she’s home. I think that’s what she meant.”