When most of us think about retirement homes, we think about sad, isolated places with TVs turned to the highest possible volume, very few visitors, and a faint smell of old soup. Not so in Neveh Amit in the Jerusalem area, where the residents are energetic and environmentally conscious.
The residents/gardeners (aged 75 to 100) spend every Tuesday afternoon growing vegetables in their organic garden. They take great pride in their vegetables, and according to one resident they grew cucumbers as long as an arm. Another said that the eggplants made a salad that fed more than 100 people.
The garden keeps both the residents and the environment healthy. The residents get to exercise, keep active, and enjoy healthy organic produce. The environment is polluted with fewer pesticides, and fewer fossil fuels are required to transport food to the community since the residents enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.
Avi Amenou leads the gardening activity every Tuesday afternoon and has assisted in specially designing the greenhouse to make it old-age-friendly. The greenhouse is completely wheelchair accessible and the vegetable beds are higher than normal so the residents can work without bending over. The weekly activity includes gardening and a discussion of agricultural theories, biology, and water conservation.
Neveh Amit is quickly becoming one of the greenest retirement communities in Jerusalem. The center’s green-ness is exemplified in: the low-flow water pressurizers installed in all the faucets and shower heads, the fact that the building is heated entirely by biodiesel, the automated electricity system that turns off appliances and lights when not in use, widespread recycling, and composting.
Sara Ophir, a five-year resident and gardener, said that “everyone can do a little bit in their own house or apartment, but when you have a big building like here, with about 150 residents, when you have the ability to conserve electricity and water, it’s a big thing. Otherwise, would you go to everyone on your street and say, ‘Hey, everybody, save electricity, save water?’ It would take a lot of doing. I think it’s wonderful that they’re making the building green. They’re economizing carbon dioxide emissions by using less electricity and good fuel and economizing on water.”
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