Gardening Benefits and Tips for Seniors
Spring is here, and so is gardening season. Everywhere we look, trees are blossoming, flowers are blooming, and green is returning. Caring for a garden can be a great activity for seniors. From inspiring creativity to calming the nerves, gardening offers meaningful benefits. This month’s blog explores the rewards gardening can bring and offers ideas to help older adults garden safely.
Gardening can be a life-giving activity for older adults. Caring for a plant or garden space can give them a sense of purpose. Seniors who have spent most of their lives caring for others can experience a sense of loss as their own needs increase and their ability to help others decreases. Gardening can bring feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment as seniors nurture living, growing plant life. And the act of planning a garden’s design – whether it be an assortment of potted herbs or a raised bed of flowers or veggies – stimulates the mind through creativity and imagination.
Additionally, working with plants can foster emotional and physical well-being. Studies have shown that digging in the dirt releases microbes that cause serotonin production, bringing feelings of happiness and relaxation. Simply being around the beauty, sights, and smells of a garden can reduce stress while bringing back good memories of time spent outdoors throughout life. Further, the increased physical activity of gardening has a host of health benefits like reducing the risk of some cancers, depression, heart disease, and more.
Make Safety a Priority.
To get the best out of gardening, it’s important create a safe workspace to avoid falls and injury. Make sure that garden spaces are wide enough to navigate and not slippery, and put plants, tools, and containers in easy to reach places. It’s a good idea to warm up before gardening by taking a short walk or doing some light stretches to foster ease of movement. Working in the early morning or evening can help prevent overheating on hot days.
Be sure to take regular breaks to rest and rehydrate. If you’ve been kneeling or bending over for a while, try sitting in a chair for a few minutes before fully standing up. Standing up too quickly, especially after being in the sun, can cause lightheadedness. Wear lightweight pants and long-sleeved shirts as well as a hat and gardening gloves to protect skin from plant irritation and the sun’s rays. If you are helping a loved one with dementia plant a garden, be sure not to plant anything that would be poisonous if ingested.
Make the Best Use of Space.
The gardening spaces that seniors have access to will depend on their living situation. Older adults who are recently retired and still living at home or in an independent living community will likely have more space to work with. There, raised beds or small garden plots are an option. Those in assisted living facilities can create container gardens in pots, placing them near a window or out on a patio to utilize more limited space.
Where possible, seniors can benefit greatly from community gardening. Some senior living facilities may offer common gardening spaces for residents. Adults still living independently may look to join a public community garden where they can also benefit from building relationships with other people.
Get Good Gear
Using the right equipment can help seniors garden safely and with less difficulty. Many older adults live with limitations in mobility due to arthritis and other health issues. A raised garden is a great option when possible and allows adults to work while standing. Most gardens will require some bending or kneeling, however. Using a foam pad or a kneeler with handrails can help seniors get down in the dirt more easily. Also choose tools that are ergonomically correct to reduce strain on muscles and joints. Keep tools clean and well-conditioned to get the most out of them.
Finally, it’s important that seniors enjoy themselves! Gardens require work, which can be satisfying and pleasurable in itself. The bounty of gardens, large or small, also bring pleasure and satisfaction. Whether it’s a single orchid bloom, a crop of juicy tomatoes, or a bouquet of cut flowers, gardens have a lot of good to give. Now’s the season to get started. Enjoy!
The Cedars Retirement Community
Located just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana, The Cedars Retirement Community believes in providing the highest quality of life and opportunity for seniors. We want to ensure that your latter years are lived with joy, enthusiasm, and relational connections. Please contact us with any questions or to schedule a tour of our beautiful lakeside retirement community.