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Residents reconnect with the soil at LA Jewish Home

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Susan Leitch meets with residents.

At the Los Angeles Jewish Home’s Goldenberg•Ziman Special Care Center (G•Z), everything’s comin’ up flowers, fruits and vegetables (my apologies to Ethel Merman) thanks to Community Manager Susan Leitch.

“Susan’s love of gardening and cooking led her to start the Garden Club in 2005,” says Nadine Roisman, Administrator of the Eisenberg Village Campus at the Jewish Home. “This unique activity is designed to help the residents feel valued, learn through a meaningful hands-on experience and be the best they can be at this stage in their lives.”

In this 100% organic garden, each plant has a therapeutic use for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The calming effects of lavender, chamomile and mint are found in scented wands and used in teas. The garden is also a pleasant escape for residents, staff and families.

It’s clear that Leitch had to put a lot of thought into planning. “I had to be mindful of drought-tolerant plants,” she says. “I wanted them to be native to California.”

According to Molly Forrest, CEO/president of the Jewish Home, “The G•Z wandering-path garden is a gift. Susan’s willingness to undertake its design and wear the chief hard hat in constructing the garden with the assistance of staff, residents and volunteers was wonderful. The way Susan and her staff have folded the garden into programming for the residents is amazing. The fruits of her garden have blossomed here.”

Not only does this working garden provide an anxiety-reducing outlet for the residents—with its wandering paths to relieve stress—its crops find their way into the facility kitchen and the flowers are used in creating fragrant decorations. The dietary department benefits by using the fresh food and herbs in meal preparation. Cucumbers and tomatoes find their way into Israeli salad and residents enjoy fresh squash and cabbage—even succulent strawberries are available for sweet treats.

The kaleidoscope of fragrances stimulate the brain to remember the past. One day, Leitch cracked a leaf from a lime tree, had a resident smell it and asked her what it reminded her of. “Vodka gimlet,” was the reply. It happened that the resident had worked for the Rockefeller family and that cocktail was a family favorite.


Along with the bountiful harvest and beauty that Susan’s garden provides, there’s also a satisfaction of knowing that her residents have the opportunity to reconnect with soil. So when you go to the Produce section of the supermarket and select a pepper or cucumber that’s traveled farther than you went on your last vacation, think about the freshness, purity and healthfulness of the fruits and vegetables that the residents of the G•Z Special Care Center enjoy every day.

And when you need to find…


Sandra Hoban

Managing Editor

Sandra Hoban


Sandra Hoban has been on Long-Term Living’s editorial staff for 17 years. She is one of...