Gardening is one of nature’s most satisfying experiences that can be enjoyed at any age.
Digging, planting, and harvesting stimulates the senses, enhances oft-lost connections with nature, and delivers beautiful rewards in the form of fresh food and flowers.
Thinking about taking up a gardening project with your aging loved one? These ideas, tips and techniques can help get you started.
1. Start Small
As we age, limited mobility and reduced endurance can interfere with the work of gardening. However, there are some simple things you can to do help your aging loved one enjoy this beloved pastime.
To begin with, start small….don’t take on a bigger project than you can manage! Rather than working an entire piece of ground, explore some of the urban gardening options that are easy and convenient for older adults with limited space and/or mobility. Hanging plants and pots are also good alternatives to a traditional garden patch.
2. Use Raised Beds and Containers
Raised beds and containers offer easy access from all sides making it simple for seniors with mobility issues to work in the garden. Additionally, containers or flower boxes that are raised a few feet off the ground eliminate the need to bend down or bend over, which helps to prevent falls or muscle pain.
Consider placing decorative pots or containers on stands or shelves or assembling a raised garden box that allows your loved one to work at waist level. Be sure there are plenty of nearby resting places to sit and relax when the work is done or it’s time for a break.
3. Provide Pathways
Many seniors resist venturing outdoors because they’re afraid of falling. This can be compounded by overgrown lawns, rocky paths, and other hazards. Make sure your aging loved one’s garden has clear pathways and is easily accessible -- particularly if he/she uses a cane, walker or wheelchair.
4. Tool Tips
Holding tools can be difficult and painful for arthritic hands. Invest in foam grips designed to add traction and soften the handles of existing tools. “Grabbers,” meanwhile, can be utilized while seated, preventing the need for unnecessary stretching. And don’t forget about a garden caddy: lugging heavy or unwieldy tools and supplies back and forth can strain aging bodies.
5. Easy Care Plants
Avoid high maintenance plants that need a great deal of attention in order to thrive. Choose tolerant plants which are able to hold up to a variety of conditions and are a bit more forgiving. Hardy flowers and vegetables can stand up to heat, drought, and pests better than more delicate or exotic choices.
Also, while seeds are inexpensive, working with them can be labor-intensive. Transplants offer a simple alternative with near-immediate results. Find a neighbor or family member who would be willing to share some of their time-tested favorites. The easier it is for seniors to see the fruits -- or vegetables! -- of their labor, the more enthusiastic they’ll be about continuing with the project.
6. Invite the Whole Family
Gardening is a great activity for people of all ages, so why not invite the kids of your family to join in the outdoor fun? This not only cultivates relationships between older adults and younger generations, but also encourages healthy living.
Gardening has been proven to help keep bodies limber, relieve stress, and even deliver a beneficial mood boost equivalent to that of some antidepressant drugs! If you're ready to begin, check in with your local garden center and/or senior center: many offer helpful resources for setting up easy care gardens for older adults.
With a bit of thought and planning, your aging loved one can enjoy some of the many benefits of gardening.
Consider your aging loved one’s abilities and limitations when setting up a garden. For example, container gardens are a particularly low risk option for many seniors.
Gardening is a great activity for the whole family and offers opportunities for building relationships and healthy living.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Connect with Marissa Salvesen
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.