Why Gardening Can Be Beneficial for Seniors & Tips for Making It an Easy and Enjoyable Pastime
As we age, it becomes increasingly important to find activities that are both mentally and physically stimulating.
You’ve heard of practicing yoga, doing water aerobics, and other exercises, but feel those are not quite what you’re looking for.
But have you considered gardening?
Gardening is the perfect pastime for seniors as it offers several benefits and can be easily tailored to everyone’s needs and abilities.
Here you will learn more about why gardening is so beneficial for seniors and some tips for making it an easy and enjoyable pastime.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Table of Contents
Why Is Gardening Good for Seniors?
Gardening can provide many physical and mental health benefits for seniors, such as:
- Improving moods
- Helping with stress relief
- Stimulating the mind
- Increasing energy levels; and
- Improving the sense of well-being
Seniors need community, and gardening is a great way to meet people.
Are you looking for a senior living community that promotes wellness by offering activities such as gardening for the elderly?
At Senior Services of America communities, we help seniors by providing them with the tools, resources, and networking opportunities they need to live healthier and happier lives. Find a nearby community by clicking below.
3 Physical Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
Gardening is one of the best activities for seniors because it is low-impact and easy on the body.
Seniors can get a lot of physical benefits from gardening that help them to stay active and healthy, like:
- Maintaining dexterity
- Participating in light exercise; and
- Overall improving health conditions
#1: Dexterity Maintenance
As we age, it’s not uncommon for our dexterity to decline.
This can make everyday tasks more difficult and can even lead to a loss of independence.
Gardening is a great way to help maintain your dexterity, as it requires the use of both fine and gross motor skills.
A study published by The American Society for Horticulture Science found that older adults who were active gardeners had greater hand strength and dexterity than non-gardeners.
The study’s participants were aged 58 to 86, and the research showed that those who gardened had “significantly higher” grip strength than those who didn’t.
#2: Daily Light Exercise
Seniors need to get regular exercise, but it’s difficult to find an activity that is both easy on the joints and enjoyable.
Gardening is a perfect solution, as it provides a daily dose of light exercise without being too strenuous.
But how can you be sure seniors are not overdoing it?
Here are some considerations:
- Check with a doctor before starting any new physical activity, including gardening.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the time spent gardening as tolerated.
- Stop gardening if you feel short of breath, have chest pain, or experience any other symptoms that concern you.
Tip: Seniors should ask for help if needed, especially with tasks that require lifting or bending.
#3: Overall Health Improvement
Some of the most well-known benefits of gardening are the improvements it can provide regarding health, including:
- Heart health: A 2017 study shows that gardening can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Bone health: Gardening, as a low-intensity activity, can also be beneficial for bone health by reducing the risk of osteoporosis and improving bone density.
- Mental health: Another study found that seniors with dementia who participated in indoor gardening saw improved cognition than those who did not garden. Gardening can also help to reduce stress levels and improve mood.
For seniors, these benefits can be especially important in maintaining overall health and well-being.
4 Additional Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
Gardening is not only a hobby for many seniors but also an excellent way to experience health and vitality.
Here are four additional benefits of gardening for seniors.
#1: Immunity Boost
Did you know that spending time in the garden allows UV rays in sunlight to kill and suppress germs and bacteria?
There are many other ways gardening can boost immunity, but some of the most important include:
- Helping seniors get enough vitamin D from the sun: Vitamin D is essential for immunity, and the sun is one of the best sources of this vitamin. Seniors who garden regularly are more likely to get enough vitamin D than those who don’t.
- Introducing new foods into the diet: When seniors grow their own food, they are more likely to try new things. This can help widen seniors’ food palettes and reduce their risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.
- Exposing seniors to beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms: Gardening gives way to good microbes that can help improve gut health, which is linked to a strong immune system.
#2: Reduced Stress & Anxiety
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try spending some time in your garden.
Gardening may help to reduce stress and anxiety levels because:
- It can be therapeutic: Working with your hands and being in nature can be very calming and therapeutic. Gardening can help to clear your mind and provide a sense of peace.
- It can help you stay grounded: When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, it can be helpful to ground yourself in the present moment. Focusing on tasks like gardening can help you forget about your worries and live in the moment.
- It connects you with nature: Spending time outdoors in nature has been shown to have many benefits for mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety levels. Connecting with nature through gardening can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
- It’s enjoyable: Ultimately, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to do something that you enjoy. If you find gardening enjoyable, then it will naturally help lower your stress levels.
#3: Renewed Sense of Purpose
As we age, it’s common to feel like we’re no longer needed or useful.
Gardening can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment for seniors.
For example, taking care of a living, breathing, “thing” can boost seniors’ spirits.
Even though caring for plants differs from caring for a human, watching plants grow can give us a sense of responsibility and pride.
The act of nurturing plants and watching them grow can also be very satisfying and lead to a sense of accomplishment.
#4: Enhanced Social Connections & Interactions
Gardening is a great hobby to help seniors meet and interact with other seniors that enjoy the hobby.
Seniors can talk about their gardens or give reason to…
- Visit their neighbors
- Share fruits of labor
- Have dinner; or
- Connect over similar hobbies
… which helps keep seniors connected and active in their community.
It’s also a great way to bond with family members and friends who share your interest. Gardening clubs and community gardens are also great places to make new friends and interact with other like-minded individuals.
Tips To Help Seniors Make Gardening an Enjoyable Experience
In recent years, the popularity of gardening among seniors has increased dramatically.
According to the National Gardening Association, 35% of adults aged 50 and older are interested in starting or continuing to garden.
While it may seem like a lot of work, there are ways to make gardening an easy and enjoyable experience for seniors.
Get the Right Tools
One of the most important things to consider when gardening is what type of tools seniors will need.
For seniors with arthritis or another condition that limits mobility, it is important to choose tools that are easy to grip and handle.
There are a few different tools that can make gardening easier for seniors, such as:
- Adaptive tools: Specifically designed for people with limited mobility or strength
- Long-handled tools: Helpful if you have limited mobility
- Short-handed tools: Designed specifically for seniors
These kinds of tools are often lighter and easier to grip, which can make them much more comfortable to use.
You may also want to consider raised garden beds or planters that can be placed at a comfortable height.
Consider the Type of Gardening
The type of gardening can also be a significant factor in deciding whether it’s the right activity.
Seniors with limited mobility, for example, may choose indoor gardening.
Also, seniors should consider the type of plants they want to grow. For example, if seniors are looking for something that requires minimal cutting or digging, succulents might be a good option.
For others, outdoor gardening may be beneficial. If this is the case, consider container gardening vs. bed gardening because:
- Container gardens are often easier to maintain than beds because they require less weeding and watering; and
- Garden beds can provide a more aesthetically pleasing look to your yard or patio
Finally, think about the level of commitment. If seniors only have time for a small patio garden, that’s perfectly fine.
Conversely, a more challenging project, such as starting a bed garden, may be a better option.
Care for a Communal Garden
There are many benefits of communal gardens for seniors, such as those found at senior living communities.
Communal gardens provide an environment where seniors can come together to garden and enjoy the many benefits that gardening provides.
Some benefits of communal gardens include:
- Less work
- Easily accessible resources; and
- Connecting with other community members
Less work is required when gardening communally because there is usually a group of people working together to maintain the garden. This eliminates the need for individuals to do all the work themselves.
Additionally, communal gardens usually have resources that are easily accessible to everyone — including tools, water, and soil.
Communal gardens also provide an opportunity for seniors to connect with other community members. This is especially beneficial for those who may be isolated or alone and want to meet new people and make new friends.
Senior Services of America: Providing a Sense of Home & Belonging to Our Senior Community
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We offer a sense of home and belonging to our seniors, ensuring that their golden years are spent in comfort and happiness.
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