As nature comes into bloom, the warmer weather is drawing us outdoors. Cultivating a garden is a great activity for seniors in spring and summer. It’s fun, purposeful, and even provides numerous health benefits. Learn more about the benefits of gardening for seniors and how to safely grow your own garden.
5 Ways Gardening Boosts Senior Health
1. Gardening lowers stress
Studies have found that gardening can lower levels of cortisol which can alleviate stress and even reduce high blood pressure. One study asked participants to perform a stressful task and then asked them to either garden or read for 30 minutes. Both groups showed a reduction in stress levels, but the group that gardened showed a greater decline in cortisol than the reading group. The gardening group also exhibited a positive mood, while the reading group experienced a further decline in mood.
Additionally, being out in the sunlight and creating a beautiful space to rest and relax will bring peace and a reduction in anxiety.
2. Gardening increases serotonin
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that increases mood and feelings of calmness and peace. Some studies have even linked gardening to a reduction in symptoms of depression. One study found that contact with a certain bacteria in soil triggers the release of serotonin in the brain and works as a natural anti-depressant. This may be why ‘horticulture therapy’ is a growing form of therapy that has shown positive results for people with depression and other mental illness.
3. Gardening boosts heart health and reduces the risk of stroke
Gardening is a moderately intense exercise and can count towards the expert recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily. A study from Stockholm found that regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30% for people over 60. Additionally, being outside in a sunny garden can increase vitamin D levels, which has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Gardening increases mobility
In addition to being a great form of physical exercise, gardening can increase mobility and strength. Keeping lesser used muscles engaged, gardening has been shown to be a productive way of rebuilding strength and mobility following a stroke.
5. Gardening may boost brain health
While no one knows what exactly causes Alzheimer’s and how to prevent the disease, research has shown that positive life choices do have an impact on the risk of developing the disease. Gardening is one such lifestyle choice that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. Engaging critical functions like dexterity, problem-solving, endurance, and sensory awareness, studies have found that gardening can reduce the risk of dementia by as much as 36%.
Safe Gardening Tips for Seniors
One of the best things about gardening for seniors is that it is adaptable and can be modified to meet a variety of abilities. While gardening does have a risk of falls, overheating, and wandering, there are steps caregivers can take to keep senior loved ones safe while reaping the benefits of gardening.
1. Use potted plants or build raised beds
Using potted plants or raised beds can help prevent back strain and avoid feelings of dizziness. Because these plants and raised beds are off the ground, often at waist level, it is much easier for a senior to move freely without the risk of muscle strain or falling.
2. Switch out traditional gardening tools for lightweight tools and buckets
Over time, gardening tools and buckets can start to feel heavy. Switch them out for lighter weight items to ease the physical stress of gardening.
3. Protect your loved one from the sun
Be careful to avoid the garden in the hottest part of the day, wear sunscreen, and have an umbrella to protect yourself or your loved one from the dangers of the sun. Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated in the heat to avoid dehydration.
4. Have seating readily available
Have somewhere to sit in your garden. Not only with this make your garden more inviting, but it will also give the gardener a place to rest and relax while gardening. It can also be helpful if your loved one starts to become dizzy or overheated.
5. Create a secured garden for seniors with dementia
If you are concerned about a senior with dementia wandering while outside gardening, create a secure environment to protect them. Consider making it a joint activity and work together to create a beautiful space.
Do you or your senior loved one garden? We’d love to hear how gardening has improved your quality of life! Share your comments with us in the space below.