Blooming With Benefits: Why Seniors Should Get Involved in Gardening

As the start of summer quickly approaches, many homeowners are turning their attention to their curb appeal. While spending as little as 5% of your home’s value on landscaping can bring an ROI of as much as 150%, property value isn’t the only good reason to start gardening this season. This activity can provide a whole host of advantages — particularly if you’re a member of an older generation.

Between 2013 and 2014, nearly 113.5 million people participated in gardening. But gardening can be especially beneficial for seniors. First of all, gardening requires you to move your body and dig in the dirt. It can be highly physical work, but it’s low-impact. That means it’s a good option for older folks who need to move at their own pace. This physical activity, combined with the vitamin D you’ll get from the sun, can actually reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Gardening has also been found to reduce one’s risk of heart attack or stroke by as much as 30%, improve hand strength, and even change the way you perceive pain. Since approximately 80% of seniors suffer from at least one chronic disease, this one small change could have huge effects.

It’s not just about the physical, however, While spending 2.5 hours per week in the garden can alleviate a number of physical symptoms and health risks, it can also play a colossal role in reducing social isolation. If you live in a senior community that offers opportunities to garden, this can be an excellent way to connect with others and ease the feelings of depression that often contribute to loneliness. It’s also a fantastic stress reliever and has been found to be even more effective than activities like reading.

There’s also ample evidence to suggest that horticultural therapy can have transformative effects on both mind and body. Data reveals that gardening and horticultural therapy can allow individuals to regain and learn skills, improve memory, increase attention span, and gain a sense of self-confidence and independence. Those who have shown signs of cognitive decline may improve their quality of life through gardening. This type of therapy can also reduce an individual’s need for certain medications and stabilize sleep-wake cycles. Another study also found that cancer patients who were given soil bacteria were happier, more relaxed, and experienced improved cognitive function compared to patients who did not receive this additive. It stands to reason, then, that digging and planting could have an overwhelmingly positive effect on healing. What’s more, seniors can reap the benefits of their labor when they garden. Whether they add some cheeriness with fresh bouquets or tend to a fruit and veggie patch that yields delicious produce, seniors (and gardeners of all ages) can improve their lives with this bounty.

Of course, seniors may need to make changes to their garden plots to ensure accessibility. Raised beds, vertical planting, retractable hanging baskets, and nearby water sources can make the act of gardening much more enjoyable for many older folks. It’s also a good idea to obtain some gardening tools that will provide greater ease of use for seniors who may have decreased hand strength or arthritis. Be sure to protect your knees with knee pads, keep a chair or stool close by, and invest in a wheeled gardening caddy for even greater convenience. Seniors should aim to garden earlier in the morning to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

While gardening isn’t everyone’s favorite activity, many seniors may simply enjoy the fact that planting requires them to be outside for an hour or so. And although it’s important for each individual (and their family) to make the right decision based on their abilities and needs, gardening can provide multiple advantages that can’t always be replicated by modern medicine.

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