Benefits of Gardening for Seniors: Enhancing the Lives of Elderly through Horticultural Activities

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Gardening activities for seniors offer a lot of benefits in terms of physical and mental well-being. Not only will it help seniors establish a positive connection with nature, but they will also be able to improve their physical mobility.

In fact, a study suggested that gardening promotes positive aging among seniors by way of improving both physical and social well-being. With that said, gardening is indeed one of the recommended activities for older adults, especially those who are suffering from chronic loneliness and depression.

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Just as research suggested, gardening offers a ton of benefits for older adults including:

Lowers stress

Research has proven that gardening lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for an individual’s increased heart rate during stressful events. As gardening lowers the levels of this hormone, you may feel calmer and less tense.

Another study stated that the more one is engaged in gardening, the more mentally resilient s/he becomes especially in times of stressful events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improves mobility

It is common knowledge that people who live sedentary lives have an increased risk of mobility and skeletal problems. Gardening helps keep muscles and bones active, thus promoting better bone health as you get older.

Gardening is also a good type of exercise and therapy for seniors who had a stroke. It’s important to make sure though, that they have proper assistance during this activity.

Improves brain health

Gardening is also said to improve one’s brain health. While the exact cause of mental health diseases like Dementia is still unknown, studies found that gardening helps reduce one’s risk of Dementia.

One study concluded that indoor gardening has a positive effect on the performance of seniors with mild to moderate dementia. This means that gardening has the potential to improve symptoms of Dementia among senior patients.

Increases the happy hormones

Seniors experiencing anxiety and depression can make use of gardening activities as a therapy to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine (NIH) stated that chronic isolation like during the pandemic increases anxiety and depression, but can be reduced by doing a weekly gardening routine even indoors.

Promotes social interaction

Gardening is also a good way to promote social interaction. You will encounter people who share the same interest as you in one way or another. It can be your neighbor, loved one, or an old friend. In that way, you’ll be able to enhance your social engagement and even learn useful gardening techniques from each other.

Promotes a sense of fulfillment

There’s nothing more fulfilling than reaping the fruits of your efforts. Gardening not only helps you in terms of mental and physical health, but it also gives you something to look forward to.

For example, when harvest time comes, you’ll be proud enough to say that all of those came from your own efforts. Not only that you’ll feel a sense of fulfillment, but you’ll also a sense of purpose in this world. It could also be a perk for you since you no longer have to spend dollars buying vegetable supplies for your kitchen.

Reduces risk of stroke and heart diseases

Physical activity during gardening promotes cardiovascular health among seniors. This is supported by a study published in The Guardian which stated that gardening is a good moderate exercise for older adults that promote physical and cardiovascular health.

Reduces risk of Osteoporosis and Arthritis

Osteoporosis and Arthritis are two of the most common bone diseases among older adults, and both of these diseases are partly caused by physical inactivity.

Gardening helps keep muscles and bones active, thus preventing bone diseases during old age. Light gardening activities like digging, watering, and planting are good activities for seniors suffering from early signs of Osteoporosis or Arthritis. Take note though, that assistance from a loved one or caregiver is imperative to prevent falls or injuries during gardening.

Considerations for Seniors

Though gardening is a good activity for seniors, important considerations should still be kept in mind. Seniors, unlike younger adults, have weaker bones and muscles. This means that they may not be as physically strong as before. As a senior, here are the things you should consider first before putting on your garden boots and shovel.

Skin sensitivity

Some seniors may be prone to skin dryness and sunburn. That’s why wearing protective gear such as long sleeves, hats, glasses, and gloves is crucial to keep skin healthy.

Vision problems

Poor eyesight is common among seniors. In fact, it’s one of the common causes of falls and injuries among older adults. That’s why wearing appropriately graded eyeglasses are important when gardening.

Calling a loved one or a caregiver for assistance is also a good option so that s/he can monitor your health and warn you of any potential risks and hazards while gardening.

Mobility problems

muscle and bone diseases like Osteoporosis or Arthritis may prevent you from doing heavy gardening activities. If you’re a senior suffering from these diseases, better opt for lighter activities like watering, trimming, or harvesting. You might also need an assistant with you to help with lifting stuff and digging deeper holes.

Mental capabilities

Leaving seniors with Dementia all alone in the garden is not advisable. There should always be a caregiver or a loved one looking after his/her elderly patient.

Sensitivity to temperature

It’s not advisable for seniors who have existing cardiovascular health conditions to stay in the garden for longer periods, especially during noon as it may cause hypertension or heart attack.

Might as well tend your garden for 1-2 hours every early morning or afternoon as these are the times with favorable outdoor temperatures.

Gardening Tips for Seniors

Now that you know the important considerations for seniors in gardening, the tips below may help you make your gardening safe and enjoyable despite your health conditions.

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep walkways flat and non-slip.
  • Avoid too much exposure to sunlight.
  • Apply first aid to any cuts and injuries immediately.
  • Wear protective gear like long sleeves, hats, or gloves.
  • Use garden equipment with care. Ask for assistance if needed.
  • For seniors with Dementia, make sure that loved ones secure fences or gates.
  • Store garden equipment properly. Preferably in one place where you can easily find them.
Things to do in Gardening

Seniors do not necessarily have to do a heavy job when gardening. For seniors who have mobility problems, you may want to get a caregiver or a loved one with you to assist. Below are some gardening activities that are suitable for you as a senior:

  1. Digging small holes - You can use a small garden shovel to dig small holes.
  2. Planting - Planting vegetable seedlings, flowering plants, and herbal plants are great options.
  3. Watering - This is a light and easy activity suitable for seniors with mental or physical health problems.
  4. Harvesting - You can do it with a loved one or a friend to promote social interaction and bonding.
  5. Trimming - Trimming flowering plants and bushes is also a suitable task for seniors with various health conditions.
  6. Other sensory activities - Seeing, holding, or smelling flowering plants is also a good therapeutic activity for seniors.

Gardening is indeed a good activity for seniors and it offers a ton of benefits, from physical, physiological, to even mental well-being. However, assistance and supervision from a caregiver or loved one is still necessary, especially if a senior has an existing health condition.

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