The natural aging process in humans, which sometimes seems intent on slowing us down, is challenging at best.
Once robust and vivacious, some of us may experience physical disabilities, declining health, and attendant emotional distress as we age. With a large majority of the population, U.S. and worldwide, approaching or already at senior ages, more types of restorative settings are being explored to help seniors stay physically active.
Therapeutic gardening, for example is a popular and proven way to keep depression at bay. In fact, the benefits of therapeutic gardening for seniors, whether enjoying a garden at home or in an assisted living setting, can enhance a senior’s life physically, cognitively, and emotionally.
Simply stated, therapeutic gardening is the practice of immersing in a natural garden environment while gleaning its emotional, mental, and physical benefits. This type of therapy has been used for generations and is especially helpful for aging adults. Here are just a handful of therapeutic gardening benefits:
Just being out in the fresh air and sunshine can make you feel better physically while lifting your spirits at the same time.
While it might sound counter-intuitive, getting outside and working the soil actually helps alleviate pain, even for those suffering from arthritis or joint pain. Gardening gets you moving, and you are less likely to think about your aches and pains in such a lovely setting. Hospital patients are known to improve sooner when exposed to nature and often need less chemical pain relief in their recovery.
This is an excellent way to get exercise without even realizing it. Planting, weeding, pruning, and watering require plenty of movement, and simply walking around a garden enhances physical well-being by promoting movement, coordination, and help in exercising the heart and lungs.
Cognitive acuity and focus
Full of colors, sounds, textures, and aromas, a garden is full of robust stimulation which activates our “involuntary” attention. This neat trick lets the mind freely wander and reset itself and reserves mental energies for times we need to focus with “voluntary” attention.
Gardening activity enhances concentration powers and improves attention span, and physical activity can stave off dementia. A gardener must focus to simply plant a seed and then remember to routinely water the plant. Maintenance like deadheading and weeding take time and are ongoing. This process can strengthen memory recall and save some older adults from disorientation.
Being outside in nature can positively affect the way our bodies handle stress. Time spent in a garden is especially beneficial to seniors worried about health, loneliness, depression, and loss of independence. With its glorious blooms and constant calm, nature’s serenity provides a sense of security and belonging. More senior residential communities today provide members with lots of safe, outdoor space and encourage them to engage with what’s outside the doors.
Many of us are familiar with community gardens, which provide not only a space to grow produce but also a place to meet and chat with fellow gardeners. A therapeutic garden at an assisted living facility likewise offers a lovely place for residents to gather and connect. Planting, overseeing, and maintaining a garden collectively brings people together to work, and the bounty can be shared with each other and members of the community.
Aging usually means less independence and it remains one of the most stressful changes anticipated by us all. Tending a garden provides meaningful activities that enhance a senior’s sense of worth and control. You can plant a seed without help, and you can then weed, prune, transplant, pick it, and eat it. You gain nourishment and even the opportunity to present a beautiful bouquet for a friend.
A sub-genre of the therapeutic garden, wander gardens are designed especially for seniors experiencing dementia. These outdoor sanctuaries provide paths that always direct wanderers back to the resident building so they can roam stress-free without concern about getting lost. And if the plants in these gardens are edible, all the better. Doing the Sunday crossword puzzle and practicing yoga may help some of us slow the aging process and ward off dementia, but with its stimulating sights, smells, and sounds, gardening for seniors provides the same benefits and more.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.