How Does Gardening Help the Elderly

Green therapy has been popular for a long time, and it is called therapy for a reason.

Outdoor activities such as gardening can be helpful in many ways. As we get older, the need for a peaceful routine becomes almost necessary, especially for people who suffer from chronic pain or diseases.

An elderly woman holding a basket of vegetables in a garden.
Gardening has plenty of health and therapeutic benefits for older people.

Aside from being a peaceful and consistent hobby, it can enhance the social life of older people and positively affect their mental and physical health.

Benefits of gardening for the mind

Kills boredom

Being retired sounds great when you’re young, but when your kids are all grown up and you don’t have a job that takes up most of your time, you start to wish for some variety in your lifestyle.

Gardening can be an everyday solution to boredom and add some variety to an otherwise monotonous daily life.

Gardening is rewarding

Finding suitable hobbies or activities for the elderly isn’t an easy task, especially if there are some physical or mental limitations.

An elderly woman smiling, digging dirt in a pot, surrounded by plants and flowers.
Gardening can be a very rewarding and enjoyable hobby providing interest in nature.

The good thing about gardening in itself is that it is very rewarding because they can see the (literal) fruits of their labor in real time.

The process of preparing and maintaining a garden can be a wonderful learning opportunity. Watching their plants grow and knowing they’ve been taking care of them since their first day can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Rewards can be mentally stimulating to people, and this kind of mental stimulation is great for seniors who need a bit of excitement in their lives.

Less stress, more relaxation

Fatigue, pain, movement problems, and an aging body are only some of the daily hassles that older people have to face.

All of these factors can lead to a build-up of stress in the body, so having an activity that can take their mind off of some personal troubles can really drive some of that tension away.

On top of that, they get to create and take care of their own personal garden, where they can rest and appreciate all the hard work they’ve been doing.

An elderly man watering plants in a garden.
Gardening is well-known for reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation.

Exposure to nature and greenery combined with sunlight and fresh air contributes to a more regulated nervous system.

Another great thing about gardening is that it is really easy to learn, so it is beginner-friendly and there’s no stress about failure.

Bringing back old memories

Gardens can also be a trip down memory lane for some seniors.

They can remember moments from their youth, such as the taste of some vegetables they ate when they were little, or how they used to play with bugs in the garden.

Our brain tends to tie together sensory information to memories. Bringing back positive memories through touch, smell or sight can have a calming effect on the nervous system.

Benefits of gardening for the body 

Most movements or forms of exercise can be painful and unpleasant for older people who suffer from bone diseases or for those who experience chronic pain.

Knowing that they’re going to be in physical discomfort can be very discouraging for many seniors to try and attempt any strenuous outdoor activities.

However, unlike many other outdoor activities, gardening is an activity where a lot of adjustments and accommodations can be made, which is great for older people who have limited movement or continuous pain.

Prevention of bone diseases

Generally speaking, most plants require a little everyday attention in order to thrive, whether it be watering, pruning, or fertilizing. Usually, this isn’t physically challenging for elders and provides some daily activity.

Bringing in simple forms of exercise into an older person’s daily regime can have an amazing impact on their bone health.

An older woman in a vegetable garden, harvesting vegetables.
Gardening helps prevent osteoporosis so it’s a good activity for your bone health.

For example, everyday movement in small doses can strengthen the bones and effectively combat osteoporosis.

Other than being good for the bones, everyday gardening activities can strengthen the muscles and improve the cardiovascular system, which is amazing for overall bodily health.

More mobility and flexibility

Although being active can be hard for a lot of older people for a number of reasons, it is recommended for them to get around as much as possible.

This means that activities such as kneeling down, lifting a watering can or digging could actually improve flexibility in older people, as long as it is done safely and within the older person’s capabilities. 

Gardening as a way of socializing

Older people could become socially isolated for a lot of reasons, due to a decrease in physical activity or lack of social life. 

Social isolation could be very damaging to their mental health, especially if they live alone.

Gardening in communal spaces could be a great way for seniors to socialize.

Many local gardening groups and retirement homes use gardening as therapy, but also as a way for people to come together and socialize.

Having peers who share the same passion can be great for elderly people’s mental health. It can help them pursue their hobby while also having a little bit of extra support from fellow gardeners.

Not to mention, the general feeling of belonging to a group and having a higher purpose could give older people a much-needed mental boost during retirement.

In summary

Gardening has proved to be a healthy and fulfilling hobby for the elderly, but also people in general.

It can do wonders for the body, it’s a good nature therapy, and also mentally stimulates seniors. Lastly, the beauty of a community garden is that it brings them together with people who share the same interests.

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