Having just amended all the soil in my 4 ft. by 12 ft. raised herb bed, I can attest to the great workout you get from gardening. With the right moves, it can be like a trip to the gym without the membership fees and waiting for the elliptical. It’s no surprise that seniors can reap healthy physical and mental rewards from working in the garden. An article on eCaring.com discusses some of those benefits and offers tips on making a few modifications for seniors to avoid injury.
The article cites a study by Kansas State University horticulturists that found the moderate physical activity required for gardening and yard work improves seniors’ mobility, strength, and overall endurance. The typical movements in gardening - kneeling, digging, lifting and raking – work a variety a muscle groups resulting in greater joint flexibility, hand strength and improved motor skills.
Additional positive effects of older adults gardening result from being outdoors, which lessens social isolation and even reduces the risk of depression. There’s also a high return of satisfaction watching living things thrive from your efforts, contributing to an overall sense of pride in the accomplishment.
Safety Guidelines for Seniors
Although there are many benefits from gardening, seniors need to make some age-related adjustments to their activities and be aware of risks.
- Pace yourself – It’s easy to become absorbed in gardening and over-exert or experience dehydration. Take regular breaks and drink fluids while working.
- Watch for sun exposure – Start your project early in the day or later in the afternoon when there is less heat and sun exposure. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and appropriate clothing.
- Ergonomic tools – Use lighter weight tools and look for adaptive designs with longer handles, grip cushioning and anything that is more accommodating for seniors.
- Prevent falling – Make sure you have a clear path to your work areas and that surfaces are not uneven.
- Keep it manageable – If working a larger flower bed seems overwhelming or beyond your physical capabilities, try doing decorative pots on your porch or deck.
Tell us about your latest gardening projects.