Getting your hands dirty in the garden is the first step toward cleaner living. Gardening allows you to create beauty while enjoying the benefits of fresh air. Unlike some activities, such as walking on a treadmill, gardening gets seniors outside. It also offers tangible rewards in the form of gorgeous blossoms or tasty food. That’s just the beginning when it comes to the health benefits of gardening for seniors.
Gardening can help you stay active at any age. It’s considered a moderate activity and it can burn about 300 calories an hour. Plus, the movement of planting and tending a garden helps with muscle strength, mobility and flexibility. The beauty of gardening is that it may not even feel like exercise. This means you’re getting a workout while engaging in an activity you enjoy.
Get Vitamin D
You can get your daily dose of vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” by spending time in the sun. Vitamin D helps with bone strength and it boosts your immune system. Be sure to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays with sunscreen, protective clothing and a hat.
Lift Your Spirits
Fresh air and sunshine can brighten your mood, and gardening provides these in spades. Studies have shown that gardening helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers have also learned the mycobacterium vaccae found in soil increases your brain’s production of serotonin, the “happy hormone.” Turns out dirty hands mean a happy brain! Gardening provides a connection with nature that can be harder to achieve as we age. This connection helps us relax and improve our mood.
Grow Healthy Food
Growing food can be another health benefit of gardening for seniors. Enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of your labor by planting edible crops. You get the benefit of healthy food that tastes so much better than what you buy at the grocery store. Tomatoes, squash and green beans are good starter plants for novice gardeners.
Strawberries need little effort to produce their tasty fruit. Blueberries can grow in small spaces and provide a bunch of health benefits for seniors. This small fruit contains iron, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc and calcium to help keep bones strong. The antioxidants also help lower blood pressure, prevent cancer, and protect you from heart disease.
Sense of Purpose
We often struggle with feeling productive as we age. Gardening can help with this by providing tasks to complete. It’s enormously gratifying to nurture seeds (or seedlings) into beautiful flowers or plants. If you’re growing edible crops, producing your own food provides a sense of self-reliance. You can keep family and social connections strong by involving kids or grandkids, caregivers and friends.
If your loved one wants to get started with gardening or continue a years-long passion, keep a few things in mind to make it easier.
- Try raised beds or potted plants to reduce the amount of stooping and squatting.
- Replace heavy tools with lighter, ergonomic models that are easier to operate.
- Seating is also helpful. Your loved one may need to rest more often, and it might be easier to do some of the tending while sitting down.
Gardening is an activity that grows on you. It’s also an activity that creates beauty and a sense of accomplishment, and these may be the biggest benefits of all.
This is a guest post by Connie Pelton
Connie Pelton is a retired teacher who spends most weekends gardening with her grandchild. Together, they built and planted an indoor vertical garden wall taller than both of them.