What are the benefits of gardening for the elderly?

It’s National Gardening Week and it feels like spring has finally arrived. This makes it the perfect time to get outside and enjoy your garden. Gardening is a rewarding activity for all ages and getting out in nature benefits both the mind and the body. There are many benefits to gardening for the elderly – it’s a great way to get some exercise, but it’s also a pleasure to enjoy the sensory experiences gardening can bring.

Keeping, enjoying and being able to tend your own garden is a great benefit of live-in care. You and your carer can get some fresh air, enjoy working in and watching your garden throughout the seasons.

One of our carer says “clients can sit outside in their garden and watch the birds and the flowers in bloom and just have a breath of fresh air with a nice cup of tea, a good chat and laughter. This is priceless.”

Five benefits of gardening for the elderly?

Here are some of the benefits of gardening for the elderly as well as some tips on making gardening easier. We’ve also added some hints on staying safe and well in the garden.

Keeping active

Gardening has a variety of health benefits. One of the most beneficial aspects of gardening is that it helps us keep active naturally. We don’t even notice we are exercising when we are bending or stretching to plant, prune or water our beautiful plants and flowers. Gardening can improve our balance, too, helping to reduce the risk of falls.

Making vitamin D

Vitamin D keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Our bodies create vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when we are outdoors. You should aim to get 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week. Of course, we should take care not to spend too long in the sun and to wear sunscreen if we will be outside for long periods. If you are not sure how much sun exposure is right for you speak to your GP.

Supporting our mental health

Exercise and being outside in nature are both proven to help our mental health, by reducing stress and easing depression. Gardening is also a rewarding hobby that can take our mind off our worries as well lifting our spirits. It can also help us feel part of the larger world and more connected with nature.

A sense of achievement

Gardening gives us a great sense of achievement when we see our plants and flowers thriving. Even the smallest gardening task, such as watering a pot of basil or mint on the windowsill can help us feel more satisfied with our day. Growing flowers can also help us do a bit for the environment by encouraging pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Creating a bird feeding station can also be very fulfilling and we can sit and watch the birds enjoy their food and water when our day’s work is done.

A sensory feast

Gardening is a very sensory experience. When gardening we notice the sights and sounds of the garden from the (hopefully) blue sky above to the tiny creatures who share our patch of earth. We also notice the sound of birdsong and the breeze in the leaves. Gardening helps us experience other senses too, the scent of the flowers, the feel of the soil as we plant out our seedlings and perhaps the taste of fresh strawberries or pungent mint.

Gardening for the elderly

Of course, some aspects of gardening can become more difficult as we get older. But while double-digging a vegetable patch might be too much for us, there are ways to enjoy gardening no matter our age or ability.

The important thing is to adapt your gardening plans according to what you can do. Here are some ways to make gardening easier.

Get the right tools

The right tools can make most jobs easier and many helpful gadgets are available to help make gardening simpler. You can choose long-handled forks, towels and grabbers to reduce the need for bending or kneeling. Ergonomic tools are also available for those who find it harder to grip. Another handy item is a lightweight yet sturdy gardening stool that enables you to take a break or do some tasks sitting down.

Use pots and containers

If maintaining a lawn and flower beds is a bit much for you, you can still get plenty of exercise, pleasure and even produce from pots and containers. Large pots have lots of room for roots and hold more nutrients and water so they need feeding and watering less often. Small pots of herbs and flowers and strawberries may be more manageable for some. You could put the smaller pots on shelves or a potting bench to make it easier to water them and help keep them out of the reach of slugs and snails.

You can also buy raised beds to help you grow vegetables without the need for digging and bending.

Enjoy your garden

Of course, gardening is hard work so it’s important to spend some time just sitting and enjoying your garden, perhaps with a cool refreshing drink or a cup of tea. Invest in a comfortable garden chair with a nice padded seat so you are more inclined to stay outside. A parasol is another essential garden item so that you can take regular breaks in the shade.

Staying safe in the garden

Here are some tips to ensure you stay safe and well in the garden

Be sun safe

If you are going to be in the garden for any length of time ensure you wear a hat and sunscreen. Alternate time spent in the sun with time in the shade and remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated

Work safely

When gardening you should wear sturdy gloves and shoes that protect your feet and have a good grip. Be careful not to leave tools or items such as hoses lying where you might trip over them. Be especially careful on wet surfaces so you don’t slip.

Get some help

If you are unsure whether a task might be a bit much for you then get some help or support. It’s important not to take risks such as standing on stools to hang baskets or using electrical equipment when tired. If you are in any doubt, wait until you can get some help from a family member, carer or professional gardener.

Enjoying your garden with your Live-in Carer

Having your own garden is a wonderful resource and live-in care allows you to continue to enjoy the benefits of gardening. At Mumby’s, we support our clients to live as independently as possible and to continue to enjoy the home and pastimes they love with the support of a trusted carer by their side.

If you’d like more information about how the Mumby’s friendly and knowledgeable Live-in Care team could support you or your family call us on 0800 505 3511 or email info@mumbys.com.