Gardening is a hobby everyone can enjoy, including seniors. Planting a garden and seeing it grow is rewarding within itself, but the activity of gardening also has many other benefits as we age.
Health Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
Gardening gives us fresh air and helps us connect with the environment. But, did you know there are also health benefits as we watch those flowers grow?
- Gardening relieves stress. Alleviating stress is something we all look to do at any age. Researchers found that gardening can lower levels of cortisol which cause stress, high blood pressure and even affects glucose levels.
- Gardening increases serotonin levels. Just as gardening lowers our cortisol levels, it also raises our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps to put you in a good mood and helps you feel calm.
- Gardening boosts the immune system. Studies have shown that spending time in the garden can also boost the immune system. The so-called “friendly soil bacteria” (Mycobacterium vaccae) found in garden dirt has been found to alleviate problems like asthma, psoriasis, and asthma. So, go ahead and get your hands dirty! It’s good for you!
- Gardening is good exercise. While you may not be running a 5k, there’s no doubt that gardening gets the blood pumping. Bending, squatting, and pulling weeds takes a lot of physical energy. Any type of exercise is good for the body and can help slow down the aging process. It may be a good idea to get some stretches in before you hit the garden to avoid straining a back muscle or injuring something else.
- Gardening may lower the risk of dementia. Gardening requires a lot of hand/eye coordination as well as sensory awareness which may be why researchers have found that it helps to lower the risk of dementia.
Gardening for Seniors with Alzheimer's & Dementia
While gardening can help to lower the risk of dementia, it can also serve as a form of therapy for those dealing with dementia as well as Alzheimer's disease. Some facilities offer therapeutic gardens to help residents better stimulate their senses. Gardening can also help with eating habits if residents are planting, growing, and then enjoying what they sow.
If gardening was a hobby that brought great joy before memory problems set in, bringing it back can also provide a sense of comfort since many with Alzheimer's remember the things that made them most happy.
The calm surrounding of the garden also provides a serene environment for those dealing with memory issues. Many gardens for those with Alzheimer's will be shaped like the number eight because dead ends can prompt more confusion. Care facilities take this into consideration as well as safeguards to avoid any patients from mistakenly wandering off.
Gardening in Senior Living
Besides facilities dedicated to memory care, some other senior living facilities offer gardening as a hobby for its residents because of the many benefits. Senior living retirement communities may offer the greatest flexibility when it comes to gardening because many residents still maintain a great level of independence.
Some facilities offer community gardens which allow everyone to come together and do something they enjoy. This not only allows seniors to reap all of the health benefits of gardening, but also gives them the opportunity to make new friendships and stay connected to those around them.
For those who may not be as agile or independent, there are other forms of gardening they can take part in. Tending to hanging plants or flower boxes is one option that some facilities incorporate. If mobility is a major issue, some residents can even plant seeds in pots and watch them grow from a windowsill in their room. This type of gardening activity may be best suited for those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Depending on the weather and environment there are also gardening activities that won’t require plants to have that much sun, making gardening an activity that can be done anywhere.
Keeping gardening manageable for seniors is key in allowing them to continue taking part in a hobby that provides them so many benefits.