The Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Gardening is a favorite activity of many seniors during the spring and summer time.  Besides being enjoyable, it provides numerous health benefits.  If you have an older parent, you should encourage them to remain active in a hobby like gardening.

How Gardening Can Keep You Healthy

Gardening has many benefits for overall physical and mental health.  Here is a list of reasons to continue in this activity if it is a favorite.

  • It provides exercise and improves mobility and flexibility.  For seniors who don’t have appointments or schedules to keep, it can be easy to become inactive.  Gardening is a fun activity that stimulates the body’s systems without seeming like exercise.
  • It incorporates multiple areas of the body with bending, stooping, and reaching to provide overall fitness and improvement of motor skills.
  • It improves endurance if you spend a lot of time in the garden.  It also improves strength as you pull weeds and dig in the dirt.
  • It can reduce stress levels and allow the person to relax, which promotes better sleep for improved health.
  • It can help prevent or reduce problems with diseases like osteoporosis, which benefit from exercise.
  • It helps improve mental awareness due to the fresh air and can help the senior maintain the ability to focus and concentrate.
  • It provides social interaction with neighbors or people walking by.
  • It provides a sense of accomplishment that the senior can still do something even if their body is failing in other areas.
  • Growing your own vegetables in the garden can provide healthy food with nutritional value.

Considerations

Although there are many benefits you can gain from gardening, there are also things to consider.  For instance, a senior’s skin is much thinner and more fragile than a younger person and they can get calluses’ or cuts on their hands.  They can also get sunburned quicker and should reapply sunscreen often.

Other concerns include:

  • Falls.  If the ground is uneven, a senior is more likely to fall and break a bone.  The area needs to be free from sticks, rocks, and other hazards. It can also be beneficial for them to use a cane or a walker even if they don’t need one indoors.
  • Overheating. Older people may not be able to regulate their body temperatures as efficiently as someone twenty or thirty years younger.  It is important that they stay inside during hot times of the day and drink plenty of liquids when they are out in the garden.
  • Poor vision. If a person cannot see well, it can be more dangerous for them to      be outside in an unfamiliar area than in their house where they walk every day.
  • Forgetfulness. A person with dementia may become disoriented when they are away from the familiarity of their home. This is true even if it is their backyard; they can wander off and      become lost.

How to Make Gardening Safe

Seniors do not need to give up their gardening as they age.  Many things can be modified to allow them to continue to participate in an activity they enjoy.

  • Use patio plants in pots that can be placed at waist level.
  • Create raised beds to prevent back strain.
  • Buy lightweight tools and plastic buckets that are easier to handle.
  • Make sure there is a shaded area near the garden for the senior to get out of the sun for awhile.
  • Have a comfortable outdoor chair near so they can rest.

Many homecare services will allow the caregivers to assist the senior with gardening.  They can be there with them in case they would get sick or need help.

As a family caregiver, you may worry about your parent when they are outside.  You can have them buy a mobile phone to keep with them when they are outdoors.  This way, you can reach them and they can contact you if they don’t feel well.

Make sure any cuts or insect bites are cleaned and treated immediately.  If the person is unsteady, you may suggest that they don’t use power tools or put them away to prevent serious injury.  Encourage them to wear sturdy shoes and protective gear such as gloves when working in the garden.

If you are concerned about your parent spending time in the garden alone, you can utilize homecare services to assist them.  At Carefect Homecare Services, we encourage seniors to be active by providing caregivers as a safe resource for them to enjoy an active lifestyle. Our caregivers can remind the senior to drink plenty of water and check on them to make sure they don’t stay out in the heat too long. We can help make gardening a safe activity for your parents or loved ones to continue and enjoy.

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