For two years now, the Iannicelli Healing Garden at the Moe Levin Day Centre has been providing a therapeutic sanctuary for patients. Because of the enormous generosity of the Joseph and Mary Iannicelli Family, this haven has grown into a place for hope and healing.

Through the combination of a relational, environmental, and medical approach, the Moe Levin Day Centre helps people with mild to moderate cognitive deficits maximize their abilities. Since 2007, the Iannicelli Healing Garden has contributed to this goal in a wholly unique way thanks to the inspired act of a generous donation.

The memory of a garden

Marc used to tend his own garden before Alzheimer's disease forced him to abandon this small daily pleasure. In the past, he would get his hands dirty in the warm earth, plant or dig up wayward perennials, pick fresh vegetables of the day, or admire his annuals flowering in all their splendour.

Each patient arrives at the Moe Levin Day Centre with a unique history coloured with warm memories; unfortunately, these memories inevitably fade into the fog of the disease. But, just like Marc, patients also feel the spark of past joys as they walk around the Healing Garden and take in its delights. While they cannot fully escape their disease, the garden allows them to forget about it for a short time as they benefit from the pleasures that nature brings and find new strength in a garden that blooms with the remembrance of happier times.

Healing Garden

The Iannicelli Healing Garden was designed especially for the Moe Levin Day Centre. The plants and flowers were carefully chosen to remind patients of the sixties — a time that represents their own era, past, and memories.

“We labelled each plant and flower, and patients recognize almost all of them. Despite their disease, they can recall the names of the perennials, sometimes even faster than I can. It’s a great way to start a conversation with them because they like to talk about the gardens they used to have. — Fanny Debonnet, horticulturist

Patients can use the garden not only to contemplate its beauty but also to socialize, have a BBQ, exercise, rest, and even tend to the garden themselves. Since last year, patients and staff members have been growing vegetables and cooking them for dinner.

“This natural jewel stimulates the memory and all senses through the aromatic plants, the visual splendour of the flowers, the taste of seasonal vegetables, or the singing of birds. The garden makes a big difference in patient recovery.” — Dolly Dastoor, PhD, Clinical Administrative Chief, Program for Dementia with Psychiatric Comorbidity

After two years of growth, the garden now belongs to the patients of the Moe Levin Day Centre: they are no longer visitors, but true owners of the space. They find therapy in the smallest of acts, such as cutting wilted flowers or picking vegetables. Everyone gets a chance to get their hands dirty. A garden is an image of oneself and one’s internal landscape, and we can clearly see through the beauty of this precious refuge that patients leave it having grown.

Great thanks to the Iannicelli family!

See photos of the garden.