Nurturing flowers and vegetables in your garden does more than just beautify your space. It’s also good for your mental and physical wellbeing. The health benefits of gardening range from reduced stress to greater stamina and flexibility. With aging, however, comes some undeniable physical changes that might make gardening a little more difficult. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome them.
Here are some of the ways gardening is good for your overall health, along with tips to help you continue to safely dig in the dirt as you grow older.
Health Benefits of Gardening at Any Age
Calms stress: If you’ve spent time in a garden, you know the Zen-like calm that can wash over you. Digging, pruning, admiring the blooms, and taking in the fresh air are some of the pathways to peace that gardeners have treasured for centuries.
Improves mental health: ‘Horticultural therapy’ is a term used to describe gardening’s mental health benefits. Therapists often recommend it to people suffering from a variety of conditions ranging from bipolar II disorder to depression and dementia.
Boosts immunity: Spending time in the great outdoors is generally good for you. Wear proper sun protection, of course, but exposure to a little sunlight increases the body’s production of vitamin D. That vitamin, in turn, improves your body’s ability to absorb calcium. It’s a combination that offers a boost to your immune system, and your bones benefit too!
Helps manage blood pressure: We all know that physical activity can help lower blood pressure. Did you know that gardening is considered physical activity? Experts say gardening is one way to battle high blood pressure. Just a few times a week can help.
Burns calories: While we’re talking about gardening as a physical activity, it’s a good time to mention that this popular hobby burns calories, too. It’s considered moderate- to high-intensity exercise, depending upon what tasks you are tackling. You can burn up to 330 calories per hour tending your garden or tidying up your yard.
May prevent dementia: While much of the research surrounding dementia isn’t definitive, some experts believe that gardening may help prevent dementia. Scientists think it’s the combination of mental and physical activity that has a positive effect on the brain health.
Protects flexibility and stamina: Gardening is great for your body in many ways, and stretching is one. Every time you reach to pull a weed or deadhead a flower, you’re stretching your muscles. That helps maintain core strength and flexibility. Both are essential for preventing falls that might lead to serious injuries.
With all of these proven health benefits, it’s easy to see why gardening is growing in popularity. And if you are a senior looking for ways to continue to safely tend your garden, we have ideas for you to consider.
Senior-Friendly Gardening Tips
Garden in containers, raised beds, and window boxes: If you are struggling with mobility or balance issues, moving from gardening in the ground to different types of planters might be a good idea. You can grow everything from flowers to herbs and vegetables in containers.
Plant near easy sources of water: One chore that can be tough for older gardeners is dragging a heavy hose around the yard. It might help to rethink your garden space and relocate flowers and veggies close to your spigots. Other options are to have an irrigation system installed or have someone run soaker hoses through your garden beds.
Opt for lower maintenance plants: It might also help make gardening more manageable if you stick with native plants that usually need less maintenance and those that require less overall attention. For example, while geraniums put on a beautiful show all summer long, they also require a lot of dead heading.
Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 95 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.