How Senior Citizens Can Benefit From Gardening

My grandmother is lucky enough to be 87 years old. Just last year, she underwent heart valve replacement surgery, and has been given a good outlook and a free pass to resume activities and interests as normal.

Her first activities included tending her peony bushes, and setting up a garden trellis for some climbing flowers.

If that’s not proof that the gardening pest never leaves us, I don’t know what does. Even at an age when many of us are slowing down and reducing activities, more seniors are reluctant to give up gardening. It should be like this!

While it’s worth slowing down a bit, there are many things we can do to keep our gardens as beautiful and productive as ever as we age. Since gardening has so many benefits, it’s wise to incorporate some of the tips and tricks we’ll discuss below.

From changing tools to adapting as you work, the following tips can help you keep the gardening bug alive for the rest of your life!

Benefits of Gardening for Senior Citizens

Not only is gardening a great form of low-impact exercise, but it also exposes us to much-needed fresh air and sunlight.

Gardening requires focus, which keeps the mind sharp and increases one’s ability to pay attention. Other pleasant side effects of tinkering with flower beds at any age include:

If this hasn’t convinced you that everyone should be gardening, there are some less scientific reasons to encourage a green thumb, too.

For my family, gardening has helped bridge the gap between my own children and their great-grandmothers. In an age when they communicate via Facebook, it is important for them to practice face-to-face relationships to have a common bond.

Gardening is that bond.

obstacles to overcome

Even though our most precious generation may be the most passionate about their lawns and gardens, it is often not enough.

As we age, the physical demands of even keeping up with a simple raised bed can sometimes seem overwhelming. The bending, standing, stooping and digging can present challenges and may turn older enthusiasts away from gardening if they are not provided with the proper tools to assist.

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One way we’ve gotten around some of the struggles my own grandmother faced is by having frequent conversations about her garden. I’ve learned that many of her problems can be easily solved with the right techniques, hacks, or even products you can find online.

(Remember, this generation didn’t grow up shopping on Amazon. It may never occur to them that solutions in the form of simple ergonomic tools exist, or that they’re as cheap – or easy to buy – as We know them to be!)

Best Practices for Lifelong Growth

Many older gardeners may be living alone at home but would like to continue to have independence outside in the garden.

The following tips can help us all keep up a gardening routine that is worthwhile, and allows older hobbyists to live a normal and rewarding life.

1. Build a Raised Bed

Even at 38, I appreciate a good raised bed gardening system.

Working above ground is not only perfect for pest and weed control, but it also removes some of the pain points associated with bending, kneeling, and working below the waist.

A well laid out garden can even be accessed by a walker or a wheelchair, making it ideal for different stages of life!

See additional benefits and details of raised bed systems on Gardener’s Path.

2. Sit comfortably

There is no reason for anyone to kneel nowadays.

With so many garden carts and stools on the market allowing for a comfortable seating position, it is possible to garden for long periods of time without any adverse effects.

Best Choice Products Garden Cart Rolling Work Seat

Many products even come with storage for your tools, seeds, and gloves! I really like the Rolling Garden Cart with Work Seat and Tool Tray, available on Amazon.

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3. Protect Yourself

The older you get, the more sensitive you become to heat and sunlight.

A good gardening hat, sunglasses, sunblock, and a long-sleeved button-up are essential to keep you cool, and to avoid the risk of sunstroke, burns, or photosensitivity that many common medications can cause.

4. Avoid Peak Hours

In addition to covering up, it’s wise to avoid the sun’s harsh rays during the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in most North American time zones.

Adopt a common sense rule about heat and humidity: When a heat advisory is issued by local weather officials, don’t do any gardening outside!

Air quality is another common concern for people with respiratory problems, who should stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity when quality levels are low.

5. Go ergonomic

Not all equipment is created equal. Spend the extra few dollars for gardening tools with soft grips, easy-to-grasp handles and a length that is comfortable for your body.

I think these are game-changers, no matter what your age or physical condition!

6. Increase Security Routine

If security or emergency services are set up in case you or a loved one falls or has an accident, make sure the service reaches where the gardening will take place.

The security system I installed for my grandmother is large in scope, but we moved her flower beds closer to the house to make sure she was within range of her alert base.

If you don’t have an alert system set up but want extra reassurance while working outside, it is possible to carry a cordless or cellular phone with you to the areas where you garden. Test the range of each to make sure the call for help can be heard – should the need ever arise.

7. Make It Bright

Acquired color blindness is common for people over the age of 60.

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Clear up any color confusion by investing in brightly colored gardening tools and supplies. And make sure labels for common applications like fertilizers or weed controllers are easy to read.

You can also spray paint the tool handles with neon spray paint to make them easier to find. My husband has been doing this for years for his garden and tractor tools, and it really is a time saver!

Gardening as a Family Affair

Even though all of the tips we’ve shared will go a long way to improving the quality of life in the yard and growing beds, there’s no better way to ensure a safe gardening experience than to make building around your green thumb a family tradition. There isn’t a better way.

While you may not always find it helpful to weed and water every day, a weekly garden session is a great way to check in with your family and create lasting memories.

You will not regret the time spent together. Invite them to get their hands dirty!

The future of senior care?

As the benefits of gardening become more and more apparent to us in old age, so must we look at how the activity is treated.

Many community centers, senior centers and long-term care homes are implementing gardening activities into the daily lives of their citizens.

With the potential to reduce overall healthcare costs and improve quality of life, I’m excited to see what new developments are to come regarding elder-friendly gardening.

Are you an aging gardener excited to continue living the rest of your life? What tips can you share with others to keep doing activities they enjoy? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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