Mushroom cultivation: A therapy for seniors

Bountiful mushrooms the SGGS members grew during their mushroom growing activity.

Staying at home during the pandemic did not stop the members from Sarawak Gerontology and Geriatrics Society (SGGS) from continuing an active lifestyle. Recently, SGGS organised a mushroom cultivation activity for its members at home, with online guidance and tutorial from instructors.

Nurturing patience, care and hope

Age should not hinder one from continuing an active lifestyle. With the aim of keeping seniors live an active lifestyle after retirement, the Sarawak Gerontology and Geriatrics Society (SGGS) constantly organises activities for its senior members.

The pandemic did not hinder SGGS members as they learned to utilise the internet to continue their activities. Among the recent activities held online was mushroom cultivation. Each member was encouraged to grow and harvest their own mushrooms.

Sharing further on the objective, a representative from SGGS said that cultivating mushrooms is light and easy. “It is also clean and can provide healthy nutrients for the family. Furthermore, it is an excellent therapy for our mind and soul.”

Members of SGGS with their mushrooms — Agnes and Teresa Tiew (right).

The methods of mushroom cultivation

Focusing on the cultivation of grey oyster mushrooms, the members of SGGS started their activity by buying mushroom blocks from local mushroom farms. The instructors would then guide them on the proper way of growing. The tutorials were given through online sharing sessions.

Once home, they were told to clean the opening of the block and close it. After eight days, the cap would be opened and the mushrooms will begin to grow. The instructors explained that the block need to be kept in airy locations and away from sunlight, as fungus requires a cool environment.

Members were also reminded not to spray water directly at the opening to avoid contamination. Nonetheless, as some days are warm, members were advised to either spray water mist on the cap or place a damp towel on the blocks to keep them cool.

Grey oyster mushroom blocks purchase from mushroom farms.

They were also told that these mushroom blocks require good air circulation for better growth.

After the eighth day, when the cap is open, members can observe the mushroom’s growth. After the third or fourth day, they will know when it is ready for harvest. Once the mushrooms were harvested, the blocks will need to be cleaned and rid of any remaining mushrooms or roots. The opening need to be closed and the blocks will undergo an eight-day ‘healing period’.

Once the healing period is over, the process will be repeated. Interestingly, each block can be harvested between five to six times. This provides an abundance of nutritious oyster mushrooms for the following meal times.

The member’s experience

Kin and her mushrooms.

Light gardening is a popular activity that involves many people, and many senior citizens enjoy watching their plants grow.

Speaking to an SGGS member who wants to be known as Kin, she conceded that she had never thought of growing mushrooms herself.

“Hence, it was an exciting experience and challenge for me. It felt like a great achievement when I saw the mushroom sprouting and blooming beautifully. To me, it looked like a piece of art.”

As each mushroom grows differently, the various growing patterns gave Kin the happiness of cultivating it. “Initially I tried two blocks, but it failed to mature. I felt sad, but it did not stop me. I continued my efforts, and it did not disappoint as I achieved good results.

“I learned that growing mushrooms is just like life. Don’t get disappointed when you fail, as there is always hope ahead. The whole process taught me patience, love and care,” she added.

Meanwhile, another member, Teresa Tiew was glad to have acquired a new interest and hobby. “I would like to thank SGGS for organising this activity. I took the challenge because I was curious about it. This opportunity also allowed me to know more about mushroom growing.”

Teresa Tiew taking a selfie with her mushrooms.

The retiree was elated to see her successful harvest after a month-long period of guidance from the committee. “We all shared our happy experiences seeing our mushrooms grow. After harvesting, I cooked them in various ways for my family to enjoy too.”

Susie Chan showing her home-grown mushrooms.

Asked about the lessons she gained from the activity, Teresa explained that it was a journey of patience, hope, satisfaction, and gratitude. “Although the session has ended, my passion to continue growing mushrooms as a hobby will continue,” she said.

Another member, Susie Chan, who also took part in the activity, felt blessed that she had the chance to learn how to grow the fungus. “It is an easy and light job. I wish more of my friends knew about this and also the benefits of eating homegrown fresh mushrooms.”

“It is a good experience to learn how to properly cultivate them. The journey taught me patience as each block takes 10 to 14 days before the next phase. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I would like to give my thanks to the SGGS for organising this interesting activity,” she added.