Gardening can either be considered a chore or a hobby depending on who you ask and one thing you will notice, however, is that as people get older they tend to look at gardening more as a hobby and personal project and less as a chore.
Gardening for the elderly can be one of the best hobbies/activities that a senior can undertake and the benefits are surprisingly numerous.
Before we get into the specifics, it’s worth noting that gardening is an activity that can be beneficial physically, mentally, and even spiritually and all of which can be seen as a crucial requirement for the elderly. Especially as they not only need to maintain but also prevent a decline in these key areas which often comes with the aging process.
In this article, we are going to cover not only why gardening is an enjoyable activity for the elderly but also what some of the often unconsidered benefits are and why it is such a highly recommended activity by health care professionals.
Benefits of Gardening for the Elderly
Possibly the biggest benefit of gardening for the elderly is the physical exercise that comes with it. Exercising is crucial for the elderly in order to maintain muscle mass and strength, flexibility, blood flow, and dexterity though it’s often difficult to find an activity that can provide all of these things for the elderly.
Gardening, however, is a non-strenuous, effortless, and even enjoyable way for seniors to get a sufficient amount of exercise on a regular basis that few other activities can provide.
Digging, potting, de-weeding, mowing, trimming, pruning, and watering are all activities that require different levels of engagement, exertion, and time and these activities would need to be modified depending on the seniors level of health, mobility, and ableness.
Fortunately, there is a range of modified tools these days that the elderly can take advantage of and it will allow them to undertake large gardening projects with minimal strain or chance of injury.
While there is no denying that exercise is not only beneficial but also essential for the elderly, it’s also important to remember that you don’t want to make this excessive and risk fatigue, strains, or injuries.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide on the best garden carts for seniors which you might want to check out, we also cover the best garden carts in general on this site but you’ll find that those specially made for seniors have additional features for storage, are lightweight and even provide seating in some models.
Gardening is an excellent way to reduce stress, especially for seniors as it provides the perfect combination of reducing cortisol (stress inducing hormone) whilst simultaneously increased serotonin and dopamine levels (the feel good hormones).
There are a few reasons for this stress reduction, the most notable is being present in the moment and being fixated on the task at hand. This focus on a task helps with mindfulness and being present in the moment which is known to be a significant stress reduction method when out in nature.
That also leads to the benefit of being out in nature, the process of gardening helps to engage almost all of the human senses depending on what you are working on and this engagement of the senses is what helps to release serotonin.
The sight, smell, and touch of the flowers and soil combined with the sense of achievement after successfully potting a plant or digging out a trench are what give that feeling of achievement to significantly reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.
While the act of being outside will often be linked to exercise, when it comes to gardening, being outside can actually benefit stress reduction in the form of sun exposure and increased levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an excellent mood regulator and also provides a range of other essential health benefits which once again contributes to lower levels of stress and an overall better mood.
Gardening is an activity that has been shown to significantly increase mental stimulation and has a result either helps or reduces the onset of specific mental illnesses which can include dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Gardening, regardless of the particular task, provides mental stimulation in the form of problem solving, sensory awareness, planning and simply undertaking a task that requires focus and attention.
With all of these factors contributing to mental stimulation, studies have shown that an active gardening routine can reduce the risk of dementia by up to 36% in aging seniors, and while you can definitely find other activities that will provide a similar level of mental stimulation, very few will also have the winning combination of mental stimulation and physical exercise.
The social aspect of gardening is something that is often ignored or not considered at all and yet it is one of the most important factors, especially for seniors.
Gardening is typically a solo project unless you happen to do it with a partner or young children and many might assume that it can be a lonely hobby to undertake.
This, however, is far from the truth. For those living in a shared, residential community or living with a lifelong partner, gardening can be a great way to share time together and socialize while working on a hobby/project.
Gardening doesn’t need to be a large undertaking and you’ll often find that seniors engaged in gardening will often want to show off their work.
This means that even if an elderly person doesn’t have someone to do gardening with at the time, they can still show off their work to friends, family, and the local community afterward and you’ll find that many elderly have a garden as a prized possession and key talking point.
Growing flowers or vegetables as an example will also give you something to pick and then share with others so the social aspect of gardening should not be ignored, especially for the elderly.
While the benefits of gardening for the elderly are quite evident, it’s important to note that there are a few key factors that need to be considered to ensure this is done safely.
- Protective equipment should be used which includes gloves and long clothing to protect fragile skin, A high SPF sun cream with regular application, and correct tools to reduce fatigue. These can include wheelbarrows, garden carts, and even seated garden carts (see: best garden scooters with a seat).
- Use adapted equipment and tools which are lightweight, easy to hold, and reduce strain.
- Keep hydrated and make use of shaded areas. It’s easy to get caught up in a gardening task and lose track of time so ensuring regular breaks are taken is a necessity.
- Use raised flower beds, potted plants, and low hanging baskets to ensure gardening tasks are undertaken at a comfortable height with minimal strain.
There are not many activities that are as accessible for the elderly as gardening is and hopefully you can see that it also comes with a surprising amount of benefits that are hard to match from a physical, mental, and overall health aspect.
While there are a few factors to consider in order to ensure that gardening is safe and enjoyable for seniors, the overall benefits are almost unmatched and you’ll struggle to find a better activity or hobby.
Mental stimulation, reduced stress levels, reduced blood pressure and risk of heart disease, increased physical activity, and the positive social aspect are all incredible benefits that come from gardening and we know of few other activities that can provide this kind of benefit for the elderly!