Gardening is one of the most effective ways for seniors to maintain a healthy active lifestyle into old age. It’s a rich and rewarding activity that stimulates the senses, reconnecting you with nature and depending on what you plant, rewarding you with beautiful and delicious byproducts. Gardening also provides its benefits to your physical health, helping you get a moderate amount of exercise and sunlight. According to one study published by Kansas State University, gardening is an excellent way for seniors to shed calories and increase flexibility.
When we are young, gardening can seem like a slow, methodical process of simply watering, digging, and pruning. However, an aging body cannot be subject to the same physical exertions that would tire out a younger person. Gardening involves squatting, bending, lifting, sweating, and more, which all become more difficult to do as we age. Seniors may not be able to complete workout routines at the gym, but gardening can be fun physical labor that also results in beautiful and fruitful plants.
Health Benefits of Gardening
Although some medical conditions could restrict an older person from gardening, there shouldn’t be too many physical barriers to growing and maintaining a healthy garden. Some of the health benefits of gardening include:
- Increased physical fitness
- Nutritious, organic herbs and fruits
- Increased mobility and flexibility
- Enhanced endurance and strength
- A sense of accomplishment and pride
- Reduced stress from being outside and in nature
- Increased levels of happiness from being stimulated and actively working towards something
- Increased sense of calmness, lowered cortisol
- Preventing the onset of dementia symptoms
How to Make Your Garden Senior Friendly
There are a number of ways you can make your garden more friendly and accessible to a senior gardener. It all starts with reducing the amount of work and obstacles that could get in the senior’s way.
- Add outdoor benches, chairs, and furniture so that the senior has a place to rest and admire their garden
- Use raised beds in order to have improved drainage. This makes harvesting an easier feat and will help to minimize the amount of bending and strain that a senior will have to undergo to tend to their garden.
- You can make vertical gardens through the use of trellises, cages, fences, bamboo, or arbors. Vertical gardens reduce the necessity of bending and straining, and if your garden space is small, it helps to make the most use out of your space.
- Your garden may require the installation of fencing or other barriers depending on where you live. You don’t want pests or deer from possibly wreaking havoc on your senior's work. You may also want to install a lock or latched gate if your senior has memory problems and likes to wander.
- You could also fit a comprehensive irrigation system that will cut down on time and effort your senior has to spend watering. These kinds of systems can be remotely from indoors, or they can be set to specific time and coverage zones automatically.
- If your senior enjoy evening strolls or likes to watch the sunset from the garden, you could also install some low voltage or solar powered lighting for the footpath returning to the house.
- Use foam walled or lightweight containers and soils to reduce the strain your senior has to undergo when picking up and moving pots. You could also avoid hanging baskets. These types of containers typically dry out quickly and can be difficult to reach.
- Line worn or old tools with foam or tape to make sure that grip remains easy to maintain for seniors. You can also substitute older and bulkier tools for lightweight ones.
- Have some shade installed somewhere, preferably in the same location as wherever your outdoor chair or bench is located. Seniors need to take extra care to get only an adequate amount of sunlight so as to reduce the risk of contracting skin cancer.
Guide to Senior Gardening
Seniors will need to take a number of precautions before they start any medium to a large gardening project. Protection against both the elements, their own frailty, and bothersome pests is of paramount concern. Here are some tips and guidelines for seniors to adhere to if they decide to start a gardening project.
- Slather on the sunscreen and insect repellent along with lip balm
- Work in the morning and evenings when it’s coolest outside
- Bend at the knees to avoid placing undue strain on your back
- Carry some alert device in case you fall and cannot get up
- Drink and carry plenty of water while outside
- Use gardening instruments specifically designed for seniors
- Ask younger family members to help out with heavy projects
- Wear sturdy footwear, a hat, sunglasses, and gardening gloves.
- Take care using power tools
- Have secured gateways and fences
- Make sure that walkways are flat and visible at night
- Store all gardening equipment safely
If your senior is not familiar with the basics of gardening, there are some simple places to start that can help them earn their green thumb eventually. Start small with potted herbs. These types of plants are low maintenance and easy to transport. You could even keep them in a window or other place that gets a decent amount of sunlight. Plants like basil and oregano allow you to add fresh herbs to whatever your cooking. Once your senior has mastered these plants, they can move on to other vegetables such as bell peppers and tomatoes. There are also customizable garden beds that can be adjusted to fit those in wheelchairs. These types of beds are also easier to drain, lessening the risk of root rot. Vertical gardens are a bit more complicated but can be rewarding for those able to do them.
When you or your loved ones are ready to take the next step and find a senior living community that's right for them, look no further. Landmark Senior Living offers assisted living, independent living, memory care and more. At Landmark, you are ensuring that your loved ones are in the best hands for the care they need.