Making Gardening Easier for Seniors
April is, among other things, National Lawn and Garden month. Gardening is a popular hobby among seniors, and has many benefits, mentally, emotionally, and physically. But the actual work of bending, kneeling, working the soil, lifting and digging can become physically challenging due to the effects the aging process has on the body. But with a few tips and modifications, gardening can be made much more safe and enjoyable for someone to enjoy as a hobby well into their twilight years.
Gardening is one of the best, most rewarding outdoor hobbies one can practice. It stimulates the mind, invigorates the body, and excites the senses with all the vivid colors and scents nature can provide. It strengthens our connection to nature, rewards us with pleasant surroundings, and can even provide nutritious food. Countless studies have proven the benefits of green spaces, interacting with them or even just passively observing them. Gardening is a multicomponent physical activity that touches on many dimensions of exercise, such as aerobic, muscle-building, and balance work. Exposure to sunlight also helps the body’s production of vitamin D, a vital nutrient for bone health and mood improvement.
Like any other senior activity, finding an approach that works is about building around your abilities, and accommodating any limitations you may have. There are many ways to make gardening easier and more satisfying for older adults, all it takes is a little creative thinking and minor modifications around the garden.
- Raised garden beds: One of the most difficult and troublesome aspects of gardening is all the frequent bending and kneeling it requires. Trimming, planting, harvesting, and weeding gardens will all require getting close to the plant in the soil. By raising your garden beds, you bring the plants up to you and remove much of the necessary stooping and bending. Another benefit is that raised garden beds have better drainage, take up less space, and because you fill them yourself, you have better control over the soil composition.
- Shrink your lawn: Maintaining a grass lawn is a lot of work. It requires regular watering, watching out for invading grasses, and cutting. Time spent working on a grass lawn is time away from things like flowers, vegetables, or herbs, and for seniors with limited energy it can be a drain. A good solution is to reduce the size of your lawn, thereby reducing the amount of needy grass. High maintenance grasses can be replaced with low maintenance covers, like phlox, wooly thyme, clover, or juniper. You can also put in a patio or rock garden.
- Vertical gardening: Plants that grow on poles or trellises, like beans, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes are all much easier to maintain. Because the plants climb, it reduces the amount of bending and kneeling, as well as walking around, as the plants grow up instead of in rows.
- Take precautions: Gardening can be potentially hazardous for seniors. Heat illnesses, dehydration, falls, and more can happen. Make sure to always wear adequate clothing, drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen and make use of shade frequently, and make sure to carry a cellphone with you so that you can call for help if necessary.