Gardening never gets old, but sometimes the people who enjoy it the most find it challenging to do. While many seniors give up this pastime, there are ways to continue gardening regardless of mobility or strength. Read on for a short guide on gardening made easy for seniors.
Gardening Made Easy for Seniors: The Benefits
Research shows gardening and regular contact with plants is useful for seniors. Aromatic plants can help to trigger memories in patients with dementia. Exposure to plants can relax hospital patients and speed healing and recovery times.
Gardening can also act as occupational therapy. Pruning, planting, weeding, and watering are physically stimulating and can help to encourage the use of motor skills. And don’t underestimate the psychological well-being gardening offers. Seniors benefit emotionally from having the opportunity to care for something at a time when someone else is caring for them. And the act of gardening reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation.
The physical challenges of gardening may require some modifications. For starters, it may be necessary to seek out adaptive, ergonomic tools designed to be more user-friendly for arthritic or weak hands.
An important aspect of aging in place is having an outdoor environment that’s supportive of physical changes and needs. For many seniors, time outdoors is some of their most treasured, especially in North Carolina, where we have such seasonal beauty. Let’s talk about the design aspects of senior-friendly gardens and how to achieve them.
Stairs, handrails, and ramps are important features to help seniors access outdoor gardens safely.
Walkways should be smooth and free of obstacles. Added seating options around the garden makes it easy to take a rest whenever necessary. It’s also crucial to have plenty of shade available. Choosing lightweight hand tools ensures safe gardening. Fewer power tools also means avoiding lengthy power cords that can cause falls and serious injury.
Create accessible gardens by installing tall raised beds or hanging baskets. This eliminates any need to stoop or bend over.
When the weather is too forbidding, or mobility makes it tough to get outside, there’s always the option of container gardening indoors. An accessible mini-greenhouse or a windowsill garden can provide the pleasure of gardening but on a more manageable scale. Keeping ornamental plants, herbs, and even small vegetables on a windowsill can add a great deal to a senior’s quality of life.
In a home where there isn’t a suitable, sunny windowsill for keeping plants, there are still alternatives. Hydroponic gardening units provide soil-less, well-lit planting environments that need very little maintenance. You can also place these on a counter-top to make them more accessible. Such a system can help to provide entertainment as well as fresh herbs and vegetables.
Window boxes are another way to experience the best of both the indoor and outdoor worlds. Without taking up any indoor space, a window box planter can sit outside a sunny window and accessed by opening the window. Planting native species such as butterfly weed provides seasonal interest as butterflies come to feed on the flowers in summer. With gardening made easy for seniors, the possibilities are endless.
Gardens are a stimulating, healthy way for seniors to get exercise and engage their minds. They provide routine and purpose with an activity that requires care, concentration, and discipline. As mobility and strength decline, it may take some modifications, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Penny Willmert is an occupational therapist who works at a retirement center in Florida. She’s an avid gardener and loves to practice yoga in the serenity of her garden.
If you or a senior loved one could use some help getting back into gardening, contact Aware Senior Care at (919) 436-1871 to learn how we can help with professional elder care in Cary, NC and the surrounding areas.