Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

March 22, 2024

It’s the time of year when everyone begins daydreaming about putting the winter coat away and feeling the sunshine on their faces. As we approach the spring months, you might be thinking about how you can encourage your senior loved one to become a bit more active and social this season. Might we suggest gardening? It’s a nearly perfect hobby, with opportunities for adults of all abilities to get involved, and it has the perfect mix of meditation and social activity.

 

Gardening doesn’t have to feel intimidating. In fact, you don’t even need to come from generations of green thumbs to get a sense of pride and confidence from helping something to grow. Here are a few benefits of gardening for seniors, as well as how to get started with your senior loved one this season.

 

Benefits of Gardening

It is undeniable how you feel after growing a flourishing garden or tending to a favorite house plant. However, it is exciting that researchers around the world are starting to take a more objective approach to measuring what exactly gardening can do for mental, physical, and social health.

  • The National Library of Medicine reports that older adults who participated in gardening activities stated they had enhanced self-esteem and feelings of productivity. In addition, they had additional opportunities for social connections with peers and exercise.
  • Being in nature or other green spaces (even small green spaces in busy urban areas) are associated with increased attention spans, improved memory, and better cognitive flexibility.
  • Being in nature or other green spaces has also been linked to a higher reported level of happiness and calmness.
  • Gardening has also been linked to better sleep patterns, especially for older adults.

 

In short, gardening can improve many aspects of overall wellness. It gives seniors the chance to connect with peers, gets them outside to enjoy sunshine and fresh air, and helps to boost self-esteem as they learn or perfect a skill.

 

Gardening for Everyone

Don’t worry if your loved one has never had a green thumb, or if they are living with chronic pain, cognitive decline, reduced mobility, or other challenges. One of the best things about gardening is how adaptable it is. 

 

For an active senior

If you and your loved one are active and ready to take on a challenge, consider planting a garden full of vegetables or flowers. You can choose a plot in your loved one’s backyard or in a community garden. A community garden often allows community members to rent a specific plot for a small price, and your loved one can make lots of new friends every time they go to tend to their plot.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from local garden center employees. Let them know your goals for your plot as well as if it gets full sun, partial sun, or no sun throughout the day. They are experts and can give excellent advice for what to plant in your garden based on your location.

 

Don’t be afraid to fail either. You might get a huge harvest of tomatillos your first year but your green pepper plant withered in the first month. You’ll both learn over time what works and what doesn’t!

 

For a beginner

If your loved one would like to dip their toe in the water (dirt?) of gardening but isn’t up for maintaining a large garden plot, consider container gardening. This is when you plant vegetables or flowers in pots that you can put on their patio or porch. You might try a tomato plant right outside their front door or a few strawberry plants near the backyard bird fountain.

 

Beginner gardeners might also enjoy planting a kitchen garden full of herbs they can use when they cook. Three small pots, one for basil, rosemary, and parsley, can be perfect on a kitchen windowsill or countertop.

 

Finally, if your loved one would prefer to keep their plants close, consider trying to raise a house plant or two. A pothos plant is a wonderful starter plant, as it can thrive in almost any conditions as long as it gets some water weekly and partial sun. It’s fun to watch the plant grow and cascade out of the container it is in.

 

For someone with mobility challenges

If your loved one is living with some conditions or pain that make mobility extra difficult, you can still get them involved with gardening. You might have luck with raising their container garden to a table so that they don’t have to bend or stoop in order to water, care for, or harvest the plants.

 

Raised gardening beds are also excellent options that allow the senior to get their hands in the dirt without standing, bending, or squatting.

 

Tools to Have on Hand

Just like with any activity, safety should come first when setting your loved one up for gardening success. 

  • Encourage them to drink plenty of water. Keep a reusable water bottle near the back door or their gardening supplies.
  • Gift them a new gardening hat to keep the bright sun off their face. Add in their favorite sunscreen too!
  • Encourage them to bring their smartphone with them when they are out in the garden. Even better, consider a medical alert device that they would wear consistently so they are always close to help if they need it.

 

Have fun getting out in the garden this season! We’re cheering you both on.

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