As your relatives age, you may sometimes find that reaching out and interacting with them becomes more and more challenging. They may not be able to do as many of the activities they once could, leaving both of you frustrated on the things you’re missing out on. Your older relatives may find themselves limited to a few home-based activities here and there.
In this scenario — among many others — gardening may serve as a perfect means of bonding with your older relatives and helping them to stay active. Getting your hands dirty together and working on a project can give you both something productive to focus on, which can relieve stress in a low-impact way. Even better, it can provide a great means of relationship building between your parents and your children.
You may find that gardening seems like a foreign idea to you. Fortunately, you’re in the right place — there are plenty of reasons gardening is great for not only seniors, but for everyone. Learning about the benefits and getting properly set up can add beauty and longevity to your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Human Benefits of Gardening
There is no shortage of benefits of gardening, both human and otherwise. Gardening provides a powerful feeling of self-sufficiency by growing your own food. The process also works to greatly cut down on food travel, wasted produce, and preservative usage as well — all of which indirectly benefits us by helping to create a cleaner environment. No wonder the taste of fresh garden veggies can’t be beat.
It is fairly well-known that regular time outdoors coupled with moderate activity levels has been linked to lower stress levels and a longer life expectancy. Gardening typically meets both of those objectives. Spending time surrounded by green vegetation has also been linked to fewer respiratory illnesses and a lower cancer risk.
Numerous studies on the benefits of gardening indicate that it improves both mental and physical well-being. One study focused on the elderly actually linked lower dementia and Alzheimer’s rates with regular gardening. Gardening is a low-impact skill that requires a certain level of brain exercise every day. Experts recommend it as a means of maintaining visual and tactile abilities and in some countries it is a prescribed activity.
Regardless of your loved one’s situation, there are ways for them to enjoy the many benefits of gardening. For instance, there are all sorts of tools to help automate your garden and take some of the more physically demanding labor out of it. Many tools are specifically designed for seniors or those suffering from conditions such as arthritis.
Other important things to consider include appropriate clothing and accessories. Some gloves can help with grip, while large sun hats and protective eyewear can lower risks of sun damage. Loose fitting pants and long sleeve shirts can keep them cool while also allowing them ease of movement.
Some automation tools may also take some of the guesswork out and allow them to grow a garden that is the envy of the entire neighborhood. For example, automated tools can identify pH levels and nutrient deficiencies easily and provide suggestions for correction. Others can identify water needs and automatically target specific plants for watering.
Reaping the Fruits of Your Labor
The final — and maybe the most rewarding — benefit of the garden is actually harvesting the fruits of your labor. As summer turns into fall, your loved one may produce enough healthy fruits and vegetables to last months. They may even be able to strategically plant their garden to get the most out of their personal nutrition goals. For example, dark leafy green vegetables are rich in calcium which many seniors are deficient in.
Depending on where your relative lives and the weather patterns in that area, they may even be able to get away with gardening well into the fall when many neighbors may have already closed up shop for the winter. Many veggies such as cabbage, lettuce, radishes and carrots can grow really well in cooler temperatures.
If your elderly relative doesn’t exactly have the large outdoor space for a garden, never fear! Plenty of indoor gardening ideas and kits exist that can keep them busy and growing to their heart’s content in a small space. Beyond that, there are all sorts of things they can still grow such as herbs, beautiful plants, or those that grow and spread enough to create a near jungle.
Gardening can be a particularly rewarding activity for your senior relatives and an easy way to connect and bond with them into their older age. There are all sorts of documented benefits to gardening such a lower stress and reduced risk of mental illness. Getting geared up and going is the first step in the process of producing your own healthy veggies!