Growing a garden, planting flowers, or caring for container herbs is rewarding, fun, and good for your health! Community gardens are becoming more common in many healthcare facilities. Whether indoor or outdoor, these green spaces have many positive effects on seniors' health and well-being.
Horticulture therapy is a recognized method in helping people of all ages improve their mental dexterity, relearn lost skills, and gain new skills. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, gardening has both physical, psychological, and social benefits that can assist participants in a multitude of ways.
Gardening can have a tremendous effect on a senior's physical health. Consider the following benefits:
- The exercise and movement gained from gardening may help reduce chronic pain.
- The added exercise can improve sleep.
- Gardening can help seniors gain better balance and a steadier gait, which can mean a reduced risk of falls.
- The increased exposure to Vitamin D through sunlight helps improve bone density.
- Gardening helps seniors build strength, flexibility, and improve mobility.
There is a sense of pride and accomplishment in helping something thrive. Whether it is watching flowers bloom, seeing tomatoes ripen, or smelling fresh herbs, the process of growing a living thing can be a powerful motivator for seniors.
Gardening can also help ease anxiety and depression in seniors. For seniors suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, this activity has been shown to reduce aggression. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that spending time in a garden can reduce stress more than reading. The study attributes this to the sensory enjoyment, which includes the experience of a variety of senses like smelling flowers and hearing birds chirp.
If your garden is producing fruits or vegetables (rather than a flower garden), seniors will reap the benefits of consuming food they grew through their own efforts. Additionally, eating fresh local food means the nutrients (and flavor) are at their highest point. Food loses nutrients during the shipping process to grocery stores, as quick as only 24 hours! Thus, immediately picking food to eat provides seniors' bodies with healthy nutrients they need for optimal health.
Many Heritage communities boast gardens as part of their amenities. Encourage your loved one to participate in the garden efforts, or ask if you can help start a garden!