Letter from the Chair
by Susan Erickson, ASLA

PPN Chair
Susan Erickson. 
Image courtesy of ASLA.
I am writing this letter with great delight, as this issue of our newsletter brings several articles that I hope will provide some inspiration in your practice. One of the great things about our shared interest in therapeutic gardens is that the therapeutic benefits of nature are part of our everyday lives, no matter what part of the country we live in, or what type of professional practice we are engaged in. My hope is that all newsletter readers will find something new in this issue to stimulate your thinking and ways you interact with nature, whether you are a designer, a teacher of design, a health care practitioner, or someone who cares about the benefits of taking a walk in the park.

I’d like to introduce myself; I am the 2009-2010 chair of this PPN. My name is Susan Erickson, and I work as an outreach program coordinator at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I am a registered landscape architect in Iowa and have been involved in a variety of work both in the public and the private sectors.

I came to be interested in therapeutic design several years ago when I began noticing the lack of well-designed outdoor spaces at healthcare facilities, particularly residential healthcare facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. My interest continues today and I never turn down an opportunity to speak about the importance of well-designed outdoor spaces whenever I get the chance!  I am particularly concerned about the prevalence of newly constructed facilities at which no thought is given to outdoor space design until the last minute. (Usually it’s too late!)  I’d like to hear from you about this problem—watch your email inbox for another note from me on this topic!

There’s a great breadth of information available in this newsletter. “The Therapeutic Garden: A Definition,” by Nancy Gerlach-Spriggs and Vince Healy gives an overview of several types of gardens and proposes definitions of those types. This is good introductory information if you are not overly familiar with the topic of therapeutic design. For those who are “seasoned professionals” in this area, this article challenges us to think specifically about the goals of our design work. This article can give us a vocabulary that may be helpful as we articulate design potential to our clients.

Wendy Meyer’s article, “Persistence of Memory: Scent Gardens for Therapeutic Life Review in Communities for the Elderly,” tells about her very interesting work in investigating the importance of scent in the garden, and how it may interact with brain recall and function. She discusses the need for collaboration among various disciplines to create truly successful designs. Collaboration is time-consuming, frustrating, and costly but yields valuable results. Note that Wendy is willing to share more information on this topic, and she provides contact information in her article.

Sally Schauman, FASLA, gives us a description of the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. I had very little knowledge of the Bloedel Reserve before reading this article, and it’s now on my list of places to visit when I travel to the Seattle area. Thank you Sally for this fascinating overview of a truly visionary man and his questions about the relationship between humans and landscapes.

Steve Mitrione provides us with a proposal for the creation and assessment of therapeutic gardens at veterans’ hospitals. He cites the great increase in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans returning from service in the Middle East—both due to a large number of people serving in combat areas and a larger number of combat soldiers surviving wounds that would previously have been fatal due to advances in our medical system. It seems sensible that therapeutic gardens at VA healthcare facilities would be of great benefit to those suffering from PTSD. His proposal is ambitious, but is well designed. His focus on research design and methodology brings a level of statistical significance and potential for generalizability that can provide our field with much needed evidence-based design standards.

There is also a review by Sally Shute of the book, Recreating Neighborhoods for Successful Aging, published just this year. The book addresses societal changes that are sure to come about as a result of the aging of the baby boomers. Sally indicates that this book is an excellent resource for planners, designers, and social service providers for the development of senior-friendly environments and resources to heed the call for transforming the built environment and services for the elderly.

I would like to thank Sally Shute, faithful newsletter compiler and editor for her hard work in putting this newsletter together. We truly appreciate your work Sally! 

One of the great strengths of our PPN is the passionate interest of many of our members in bringing this segment of landscape architectural practice to a higher plane. I’d like to invite all who are interested to find ways to become involved and explore your area of interest and expertise.

Please remember that this is YOUR group, and is as active and as strong as you want it to be. I am ready, willing, and able to facilitate your involvement. We have several ways to be in touch with each other. There is an e-Network available through the ASLA PPN website, as well as a listserv that can be used for announcements to the general group. Just let me know if you have questions for our group and I can activate the listserv!

Best regards,
Susan Erickson
Chair, Healthcare and Therapeutic Design PPN
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Jack Carman, FASLA, Chair (2013-2014)
(609) 953-5881

Past Chairs

Steve Mitrione, ASLA (2012-2013)

Rick Spalenka (2011-2012)

Susan Erickson, ASLA (2008-2010)

Angela Pappas (2007-2008)

Marguerite Koepke, ASLA (2005-2006)

Naomi Sachs, ASLA (2002-2004)
Therapeutic Landscapes Network

Mark Epstein, ASLA, Co-Chair (1999-2002)

Jack Carman, FASLA, Co-Chair (1999-2002)