The beauty and benefits of gardening
Older adults looking for a fun and rewarding hobby that gets them outdoors and keeps them active are turning to gardening. Whether it’s tending to the flower beds surrounding their home or planting and caring for a backyard vegetable patch, many seniors are venturing outside and finding that gardening offers them benefits they can’t find when they’re cooped up inside watching television.
Many of the activities necessary to maintaining a vibrant, lush and beautiful garden are also excellent, low impact exercises. Pulling weeds and reaching for gardening tools are both gentle stretching movements that keep muscles and joints flexible. The repeated bending while planting, weeding or picking vegetables and walking through the garden to water plants are both good forms of aerobic exercise.
And because many people are passionate about their plants, they become absorbed in their work and don’t even realize they’ve been exercising or that they’ve been out in the garden for as long as they have. While this means that proper precautions must be taken to limit overexposure to the sun, it also means that a senior’s bones and immune system are getting a boost from the Vitamin D they’re absorbing from the sunlight.
Some research is showing that gardening can have a positive impact on cognitive health as well. One study suggested that physical activities like those associated with gardening could lower a person’s risk of developing dementia later in life.
Gardening can also have significant emotional benefits for older adults. Many people find great joy in watching the plants they have nurtured grow to maturity, eventually offering flowers or food. The fresh vegetables harvested from a backyard garden are not just a good source of vitamins, but they also provide seniors with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that they helped provide that meal with their own two hands.
Fresh flowers can brighten up a back yard with vibrant colors and smells, and those same benefits can be found when flowers are clipped and arranged indoors, again offering a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Working in a garden can be turned into a social activity. Seniors who invite friends or family members to come out and work in the garden with them are less likely to experience the feelings of loneliness and isolation which are all too often a part of the aging process. Allowing younger generations to help out in the garden can also benefit those older adults experiencing age-related limitations when trying to bend or stretch.
Seniors should always be aware of their limits when working outdoors and should avoid overexertion or uncomfortable movements. They should be able to recognize when they are getting tired and know when it’s time to call it a day, since many accidents occur due to fatigue. It’s always a good idea to have a cane or some other form of support handy when walking outdoors, especially on uneven ground, and they should also make sure there aren’t any hoses or garden tools laying around that could lead to a fall.
Seniors who prefer the solace of gardening alone should carry a cell phone, medical alert pendant or some other way of calling for help should an emergency occur. They may want to let friends or family members know when they’re going out to the garden and when they expect to be back inside, so that those loved ones can check in on them if they don’t hear back from them at the expected time.
Even those older adults limited by arthritis or mobility issues can still experience the health benefits of gardening. They may not be able to make it into the back yard to garden, but small gardens can be planted in pots placed around a porch, patio or any other room that gets enough sunlight.