Gardening is a healthy and enjoyable way to spend time outdoors, but it can be especially beneficial for seniors. It can help them stay mentally sharp, reduce stress, fight off depression and anxiety, increase socialization opportunities, and more. This can be extremely useful due to the growing senior population. According to the Census, the senior population was around 55,892,014, with people aged 65 and over in 2021.
Talking specifically about states, Maine (ME) and Florida (FL) ranked the highest, with over 21% of the total population above 65%. In the middle are states like North Carolina (NC) and Tennessee (TN), each having 17.1% of its total population as senior citizens. Utah (UT) has the least people aged 65+, only 11.7% of its total population.
Here are some thoughts on how gardening can help with seniors’ well-being.
The Therapeutic Power of Gardening
Gardening is a form of therapy. It can be used to help with mental, physical health issues and social health issues.
- Mental health benefits: Gardening allows people to feel in control of their environment and gives them a sense of purpose. Gardeners tend to have lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who don’t. They also report better quality sleep due to less stress at night.
- Physical health benefits: Gardening can improve balance, coordination, and strength by increasing muscle mass and reducing weight gain. This is done by walking or bending over plants repeatedly throughout the day. Research shows that those who practice gardening have, on average, 1.4 grams more fiber per day. Additionally, being outside in nature has been shown again as beneficial for mental and physical health, providing another avenue for improvement.
Designing an Elderly-Friendly Garden
Designing an elderly-friendly garden is a great way to help seniors live healthier and happier lives. Seniors can be more active in their gardens if they are designed with their needs in mind, including:
- Accessibility: It’s essential to ensure that paths or walkways are wide enough for wheelchairs or scooters or have ramps where necessary. The ground should also be level so that it doesn’t pose any tripping hazards.
- Comfort: If you have steps leading up from the street into your home, try adding a bench at the bottom so your loved one won’t have to climb them when he arrives home from work every day. This will give him time for his catnap before dinner without worrying about falling onto hard concrete. It also gives him extra time with friends who might also be visiting during this period.
Designing an elderly-friendly garden alone is not enough, as they might also need help with gardening. Many senior adults cannot perform all the gardening jobs independently. Even if they do, they might need help with other activities. This is especially true if the senior is having any health issues.
In such a scenario, getting them home care facilities and a garden is best. This will ensure that they can do gardening without worrying much about their health, as specialized professionals will be available for help.
You can look for a home care agency in your city or state. Suppose you live in Knoxville, TN, with a senior population around the national average. In that case, you can look for a home care agency in Knoxville, TN. This will give you a list of home care providers in your locality.
You must also look for other factors when selecting a home care agency. According to Always Best Care Senior Services, a home care agency should have a team of caring professionals with a good track record. Additionally, they should be able to offer personalized solutions, as every patient’s needs are different. You must also look at reviews and testimonials from past clients before making a decision.
How Gardening Can Help Seniors With Chronic Illness
Gardening can offer numerous benefits to seniors with chronic illnesses. Here are some ways it can help:
- Physical activity: Gardening is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood and outlook, help you sleep better, and improve your memory and attention span. Results from a study conducted on controlled groups suggested that the mean depression scores of elderly people who had horticultural therapy were significantly lower than those who did not receive it.
- Stress reduction: Gardening can be as simple as planting flowers or vegetables in containers on your patio or balcony or picking up some seeds at the grocery store.
- Vitamin D absorption: Spending time outdoors in the garden exposes seniors to natural sunlight, leading to increased vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and immune system function.
- Cognitive stimulation: Gardening requires planning, problem-solving, and attention to detail. Engaging in such activities can help keep the mind active and may benefit seniors with cognitive conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- A sense of purpose: Gardening can give seniors a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It allows them to nurture and watch plants grow, providing a feeling of responsibility and achievement.
If gardening seems like something that might appeal to you but doesn’t seem like it would be accessible because of physical limitations, there are many ways around this problem:
- Using tools designed specifically for seniors
- Using raised beds so that bending isn’t necessary
- Getting help from family members or friends younger than 65 years old
Engaging Seniors in Garden Socialization
For seniors who are homebound and unable to leave their homes, gardening can be an excellent way to boost their physical and mental health. Gardening groups are also a great way for seniors to socialize with others who share similar interests.
To set up your garden socialization group for your senior parent, consider these tips:
- Find a location accessible by public transportation so everyone can quickly get there without driving or worrying about parking. If you live in an urban area, check out community centers or other places where people go after work. If you still need to, check with local parks departments about renting space from them on weekends when they’re less busy than on weekdays.
- Make sure you have enough tools available before inviting people over. Suppose someone needs help setting up their plot but has nothing except hand tools like trowels and shovels available at home. In that case, they may be discouraged from participating in future events because they don’t want to bring more equipment than necessary each time.
Nurturing the Mind: Journaling and Reflecting on the Gardening Journey
It’s important to note that gardening can be very therapeutic. It’s also an excellent way for seniors to spend their time and enjoy the outdoors, but it can be even more rewarding if you include journaling into your routine. Journaling is an excellent way for seniors to reflect on their gardening journey, learn new things about plants, try new techniques, or simply just relax by writing down what they did during the day.
Keeping a journal is easy enough; you only need paper and a pen. For added convenience, many journals come with built-in covers, making them easy to carry wherever you go. The best part? No one needs permission from anyone else before starting one. It’s entirely up to each individual as long as they follow some basic guidelines:
- Keep private information private by only writing down things like “went outside today” or “had lunch with my granddaughter.”
- Ensure no one else can read over your shoulder while working on something important like “What kind of fertilizer should I use?”
Gardening Therapy Programs for Seniors
Numerous opportunities are available if you’re a senior citizen who enjoys gardening. You can get involved in a program offering the therapeutic benefits of working with plants.
Programs for seniors that incorporate gardening as an activity have been shown to improve quality of life and increase longevity. They can also help older adults maintain their independence by providing an outlet for socialization, exercise, and self-expression through creativity with flowers or vegetables. The duration of therapy may be between 60 to 120 minutes per week, lasting 1.5 to 12 months.
Some organizations offer classes on how to grow various types of plants. Others provide tools so participants can bring home what they’ve learned from class without purchasing anything.
If you’re a senior and want to get involved in gardening therapy, there are many ways. You can start by volunteering at your local community garden or even creating your own garden space at home.
If you have a chronic illness, it may be worth looking into programs specifically designed for older adults with similar conditions. Even if you need more than these options right now, there are still plenty of ways to reach out and connect with others who share your passion.