Gardening is highly beneficial for individuals of all ages! More than half of Americans consider themselves avid gardeners, and no one wants to give up a favorite pastime as they age. In fact, activities associated with gardening can help seniors maintain strength and agility, and provide purposeful activity with tangible results that are emotionally fulfilling.
You don’t even have to get your hands (or knees) dirty. An Australian study of gardeners aged 60-95 concluded, “Regardless of ‘doing’ gardening or simply ‘being’ in the garden, having contact with nature was key to attaining positive therapeutic benefits.”
Gardens are good for the mind and spirit, even if all you do is look around. Taking in the colors and textures–and in many cases the fragrances–is soothing and relaxing. Gardens provide a positive distraction from daily concerns as well as a place to stroll, sit, or even reminisce. And for seniors, the restorative nature of gardens helps reduce stress and risk of depression, heart disease, osteoporosis, and Type-2 diabetes.
Senior-Friendly Gardening Tools
With America’s senior population growing rapidly, it’s no surprise that garden tool manufacturers are turning out new products designed to make gardening more accessible and more comfortable.
- Ergonomic design – smaller, contoured handles are easier to grasp and hang onto while you work, a real plus if you have arthritis.
- Lightweight materials – look for rakes, shovels, and other big tools made of aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon steel. With lighter tools, you can work longer in the garden without risking lower back problems.
- Longer handles – many hand tools now feature longer or extendable handles, which makes it much easier to reach farther more safely.
- Automation – electric or cordless mowers, trimmers, and hand tools are lightweight, easy to maneuver and they do most of the work for you. One popular example is automated hose reels that require only pressing a button.
- Accessibility enhancers – kneeling pads, raised beds with a wide rim for seating, and small, lightweight stools all make it easier to work at ground level. Beds can be raised higher to accommodate gardeners in wheelchairs (or anyone who would rather sit), and tall containers eliminate the need to bend over.
There are senior-friendly tools to accomplish virtually every gardening task–digging, planting, watering, pruning, weeding, and harvesting.
Simple Safety Tips to Keep in Mind
- Lift with your legs, not your back to avoid back injury
- Use extended-handle tools rather than risking falls from ladders or by overreaching
- Don’t leave hoses and electrical cords lying where you might trip over them
- Use sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin from sunburn
Share the joy!
Research studies and common sense both tell us that gardening with others enhances the experience. Seniors, like all people, need social engagement, and what better way than sharing an uplifting hobby? Joining a gardening club or informal group often boosts mental stimulation, too, as members learn about and discuss garden designs, plants, and growing techniques.
With some simple adaptations, seniors can keep gardening and growing and reaping all of the physical, mental, social, and spiritual benefits gardens have to offer.