By Donna Mischke, Director of Family Services at Concierge Care Advisors
I spent the weekend pulling weeds and planting some flowers and a few vegetables. I generally do not do a lot of gardening, but I will say I always enjoy the small amount that I do. As it turns out there is actually a scientific reason why gardening is good for you. Not only does it relieve stress, count for exercise and improve your mood and self-esteem; it also provides us with exposure to sunlight and rewards us with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. There are even studies that show gardening can boost cognitive function and even lead to a lower risk of dementia.
Many assisted living, adult family homes and memory care centers are aware of the enormous benefits of gardening. This is why many homes and facilities provide small garden centers to allow the residents to enjoy the benefits of planting and growing various types of plants. Providing a therapeutic environment can reduce anxiety, agitation and promote a sense of peace and well-being. Gardens offer sensory stimulation. The sight of plants, colors, and textures, the smell of flowers or herbs, and the sound of leaves rustling can engage multiple senses, promoting cognitive stimulation and enhancing overall sensory experiences. Gardening can also help with memory stimulation as being in a garden setting can evoke memories and stimulate reminiscence in individuals with memory impairments. The familiar sights, smells, and sounds of a garden may trigger past experiences, conversations, or connections, fostering cognitive engagement and social interaction. Gardening offers residents the opportunity to engage in light physical activity like watering plants, pruning, or tending to garden beds. These activities promote mobility, coordination, and fine motor skills, helping to maintain physical abilities and improve overall well-being.
Gardening is a wonderful opportunity for all people of all ages and offers numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits. There are several ways to make gardening more accessible and enjoyable for the elderly. First, consider using raised beds or elevated containers to minimize bending or kneeling. This design will allow individuals to garden at a comfortable height and reduce strain on the back and joints. If space is limited or mobility is an issue, container gardening can be a great solution. Use pots, hanging baskets, or window boxes to grow a variety of plants on patios, balconies or in windowsills. Opt for low-maintenance plants that are easy to care for, such as herbs, succulents, or dwarf varieties of vegetables and flowers. These require less effort and provide satisfaction. Choose lightweight, ergonomic tools with padded handles which are easier to grip and handles. Provide a comfortable seating option like a garden stool or a foam kneeling pad.
Connecting with nature offers a deep appreciation for the Earth’s beauty, ecosystem, and the interconnectedness of all living things. Gardening can provide so many benefits and offer a holistic experience that benefits our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. After all, it is never too late to grow a green thumb.