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Gardening for Seniors: How Plant Therapy Can Help

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December 28, 2020

Gardening for Seniors: How Plant Therapy Can Help

senior man gardening rows of plants

Keeping seniors happy, healthy, and active is vital. One of the best ways to do so is with plants! Therapeutic gardening has a host of benefits for seniors. Whether your loved one tends a big yard garden or keeps plants in small pots indoors, here are six ways gardening can benefit them.

Boosts Mental Health

Your senior’s mental health gets a boost from gardening. Being outside and absorbing vitamin D from sunshine is an instant mood-booster. Studies have shown regular exposure to sunlight helps fight off depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.

Additionally, gardening for seniors has been proven to reduce the risk of dementia by 36%! Gardening requires fine motor skills, dexterity, and sensory awareness. All these come together to mean your senior’s brain is working overtime.

A study in the Journal of Health Psychology also noted gardening reduces the presence of cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress hormone.” When you have too much cortisol, it affects your blood pressure, glucose levels, and mental state. Help reduce cortisol by encouraging regular therapeutic gardening.

Improves Mood

hand holding flower bulb with senior woman smiling in background

Speaking of mental health and sunshine, gardening is a wonderful way to improve your senior’s mood. Gardening for seniors in the bright sun releases serotonin, which is the “feel good” hormone. This is especially good if your loved one suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a form of depression as the seasons change.

In addition to the mood-boosting benefits of sunshine, fresh air is also effective in making people happier. No one likes staying inside a stuffy room all day. Encourage your loved one to get outside and watch how quickly their mood improves.

Strengthens Immune System

Your loved one’s immune system is critical to keeping them healthy. If their immune system suffers, they’re less able to fight off illnesses from a common cold to pneumonia.

Fortunately, gardening for seniors helps boost their immune system. Just like when you’re a child and playing in the dirt helps activate an immune response, gardening has a similar effect. Mycobacterium vaccae, a “friendly” bacteria, is present in garden soil. It can help alleviate symptoms of allergies, asthma, psoriasis, and even depression.

So take your senior outside and let them get their hands dirty!

Good Exercise

Gardening may seem like a fairly stationary or low-intensity activity. It’s actually excellent exercise, especially for seniors! Therapeutic gardening works their hands, arms, core, and legs. It’s basically a full-body workout.

Gardening for seniors is especially effective if your senior has the mobility to carry heavy things like potting soil themselves. Exercise caution here, however, and never have your loved one carry anything too heavy for them.

Otherwise, let your loved one enjoy squatting to dig or plant, the digging itself, and the repetitive motion of watering. You’ll soon see gardening is actually quite a lot of work.

Adds Purpose

two pairs of hands holding a bowl of small tomatoes

Some seniors struggle with feeling like they don’t have a purpose or solid direction in their life. Once folks retire, it can be tough to figure out how they can give back or find meaning in their days. Gardening for seniors is an excellent way to add that sense of purpose back.

If your loved one enjoys growing flowers, they can pick them and make bouquets for their friends, family, or homecare staff. If they grow fruits and vegetables, they can either cook for themselves to enjoy the fruits of their labor or give them away to others. They can even donate the fresh produce to a local food bank or shelter.

Therapeutic gardening can do wonders for helping a senior feel like they’re still contributing to society.

Encourages Creativity

If your loved one has physical limitations, encourage them to think creatively about how they can still enjoy gardening for seniors. For example, perhaps they plant in raised beds instead of directly into the ground so the plants are higher and easier to reach.

Or, if they struggle with memory, try having them tend lower-maintenance plants like succulents or cactus that need infrequent watering. Keep all tools on a garden cart they can wheel around the yard. Swap knobs on gates and faucets for levers for arthritic hands.

If your senior loves gardening, there are ways to help keep them active and engaged with it. You just have to get creative!

Let 1Heart Caregiver Services Help Your Loved One

Whether your loved one needs help pursuing gardening for seniors, doing light housework, or just needs companionship, we can help. Our staff of caring, patient, cheerful caregivers are ready to spend quality time with your senior.

From a few hours during the day to round-the-clock care, we’re dedicated to taking care of our seniors and helping them live their fullest, most vibrant lives. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help your loved one today.

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