The lawn of the Brookhouse Home was the choice location for the Salem Garden Club’s reception at the end of this year’s Garden Club Stroll July 9th. Garden Club members thanked the homeowners involved in the tour and volunteers by hosting a small reception with refreshments provided for their guests and our residents.
It was inspiring for us to meet such avid and talented gardeners who also appreciated our Brookhouse Home garden and lawn.
Health Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
In general, spending time in nature has been associated with improved emotion and mood regulation according to the National Library of Medicine. Gardening is a low impact physical activity that provides us with moderate aerobic exercise, which increases the production of serotonin and dopamine — the happy hormones — in our bodies. It also helps decrease the amount of cortisol in your body, a stress hormone. Although we should be careful with how much sun exposure we get as we age and have more fragile skin, getting regular time in the sun is important for getting enough vitamin D. Not only is it a good mood regulator, vitamin D aids calcium absorption, bone health, and your immune system.
As we age, our joints and range of motion become much more limited. We are also a lot less active which eventually leads to loss of muscle strength and flexibility. Gardening is a great way to get regular exercise, lubricate joints, and strengthen mobility in seniors. Seniors can also do regular stretching activities after gardening to minimize the risk of injury, increase blood circulation, improve balance and coordination, and enhance muscle control.
Regular moderate exercise is essential for decreasing the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers gardening a moderate-intensity level activity. According to their assessment, gardening for 2.5 hours a week will help decrease health risks in seniors. Gardening is also a great activity because people are more likely to exercise longer than with other activities like walking or biking. Gardening is stimulating to the mind in many ways and forces you to practice being present every day. Gardening encourages mindfulness because it engages all of the senses — smell, sight, sound, touch, and the special reward at the end: taste. You have to pay attention to the needs of various plants, and be keen to special details that will help your garden flourish.
Gardening is a good way to feel a positive sense of control and responsibility according to an article in Very Well Mind. Through nurturing plants and gardens, we feel accomplished with tangible proof of our effort. A little part of you goes into the care of each plant, and seeing it flourish can be very relieving
Gardening can keep you busy in the garden for hours, but it also gets you out into the world. It’s a great opportunity to talk to neighbors, share ideas with fellow gardeners, and requires occasional trips to garden centers and farmer’s markets.
As people age, certain medical conditions and physical disabilities may complicate their ability to garden. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the benefits of gardening. There are many things a home caregiver can do to help seniors maximize their enjoyment and health benefits. With some planning and just a few changes, home caregivers can create a safe, accessible, and enjoyable environment for gardening for their senior clients.
For example, consider planting in raised garden beds to avoid repetitive bending over and back strain. Vertical planting can make garden beds accessible as well. If possible, try using wall and trellis spaces, as they can also help people to avoid bending over too much.
It’s important to make sure you use the right tools that help get the job done safely and effectively. Pick long handled or curved tools that maximize leverage and have good grip, according to a recent article. When it’s time to get on the ground and start digging, consider protective knee pads. Keep a seat around in case you need to take a break or sit while doing a long, repetitive task.
Garden early in the day to avoid the afternoon heat and get energized with happy hormones for the rest of the day! If a loved one is feeling lonely or seems isolated, consider inviting a friend, family member, or neighbor over to help with gardening.
Gardening creates a sense of purpose and is a very rewarding activity because it allows people to experience success, build confidence, and connect with their physical environment. It’s very satisfying for seniors with dementia to nurture plants and it’s an activity that people feel naturally connected to.