Spring has officially sprung and so should the warm weather activities for our senior community. The trees are starting to fill out and turn green again, daylight is stretching out a bit longer into the evenings, the temperatures are gradually warming up, and the threat of a freeze is likely behind us. After the cold, gloomy days of winter, the sunshine is happily welcomed and embraced by all; everyone seems to start coming out of “hibernation” this time of year and venturing outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. If you’ve spent the last couple of months neglecting your gardens, there is no better time than now to spruce them up or start from scratch! Perhaps you shy away from gardening because you don’t have a natural green thumb or feel intimidated by the activity. If so, let’s explore the health benefits of gardening and ways to make it more senior-friendly.
Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening has long been a favorite pastime for many people, young and old alike! It provides a great deal of entertainment, satisfaction, and rewards for all the hard work you put into it. Some may say it is a labor of love, and while this is true, it also carries many health benefits, for both the body and mind, that you may not even be aware of.
Working in your garden is a great source of regular exercise/activity. It engages muscles that you don’t use on a regular basis, and, as a result, can help to increase your mobility and improve your strength. Additionally, digging, pruning, planting, and weeding can enhance both your muscle control and your eye/hand coordination. Regularly tending to your gardens provides consistent physical activity, which in turn, can reduce your risks of some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression. It can also help to prevent osteoporosis.
Physical health is not the only area to benefit from spending time in the garden; there are many ways that your mental health can improve from watching your garden grow! Gardening can lower levels of cortisol, which helps to reduce stress; this serves as a source of relaxation and restoration, ultimately improving your mood. Furthermore, spending time with your hands in the dirt, surrounded by nature, helps to improve your focus and concentration. Devoting your energy to a positive activity, especially one that produces a final product, can boost your self-esteem and fulfill your innate need to nurture.
Senior Accessible Gardening
Limited mobility and low stamina, two common side effects of aging, should not deter you from gardening. A few simple adaptations can allow you to continue this hobby, or even try it out as a novice. Here are a few senior-friendly gardening tips to enhance your experience!
- Don’t Stoop to Their Level! – Bending down to reach your plants can be uncomfortable, unsafe, or difficult as you age. You can eliminate this scenario by using raised beds or vertical gardens. These options allow you to garden at an easy-to-reach height that makes gardening safer and more enjoyable.
- Get a Grip! – Some gardening tools may be challenging to use, especially for those with arthritis. Choose tools with foam grips or handles that are more user-friendly for your aging hands. You may also want to have access to a pair of “grabbers” for those difficult-to-reach places. Also, keep a nice pair of non-slip gardening gloves handy to assist with pulling weeds and other tasks.
- Clear the Way! – Allow for proper pathways between your gardens so that you can easily navigate the space without the potential of tripping and falling. Be sure to plan enough space to accommodate a walker or wheelchair, if needed.
- Take a Load Off! – Gardening can be hard work, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep a stool nearby so that you can rest, as needed. You may also invest in a wheeled garden caddy to help you haul tools and supplies from one area of your garden to another.
- Vitamin ‘C You Later’! – Sunshine is great for your plants and beneficial to you– but in small doses! Be sure to protect yourself from direct sunlight and extreme heat. Apply sunscreen before going out into your garden and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin. Additionally, properly hydrate before and during gardening, and avoid hours of peak heat to prevent overheating and heat stroke.
If you’re ready to get back in your garden or try your luck at gardening as a beginner, now is the time! You can visit the farmer’s almanac for tips on starting a raised garden bed, as well as suggestions on what to plant and when.