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Gardening Has Unique Benefits for Older Adults

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Gardening is an easy way to remain active throughout life. Planting, watering and tending to a garden is a great way to add activity to your daily routine and reduce the risks brought on by natural aging. The truth is, as we age our likelihood of remaining active decreases and fatigue sets in. With daily exercise and a healthy diet, older adults can avoid losing energy and keep a sharp mind. 

Gardening provides many of these advantages and is an easy and enjoyable way to do so. Whether you decide that the front lawn could use a little color, or you want to see the cooking process from cultivation to the dinner table, gardening leaves the gardener with a feeling of accomplishment and potentially a full belly. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to know how to garden to participate. There are many resources out there that take beginners step by step from planting to cultivation. Most seed packages even have instructions on the back for planting!

The Benefits of Gardening

There are numerous benefits for starting your own garden, including:

  • Physical benefits: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, such as gardening, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues. An activity such as gardening helps promote flexibility, endurance and strength and has been used to help improve range of motion and coordination.
  • Mental health benefits: Gardening is a great mental workout, as well. It takes resourcefulness and imagination to tend to a garden. Gardening allows time for meditation, personal reflection and daydreaming that can help reduce stress and anxiety. Gardeners often experience feelings of accomplishment and creativity by producing something that they helped nurture for an extended period of time.
  • Nutritional benefits: When gardening crops, keep in mind that eating organic produce is just plain good for you. Fresh produce is not only high in vitamins and minerals but is also low in calories. Certain nutrients found in fresh organically produced foods can aid in disease prevention.
  • Benefits of Nature: Benefits of being engaged in nature include better mood, sounder sleep, reduced risk of obesity and increased self-esteem through increased activity and decreased stress.
  • Relationship benefits: Gardening is also a great activity to bring the family closer. Try teaching a child or grandchild how to plant and water seeds in your garden. Time spent with family can be the best benefit of all.

Gardening Safely

As we age, it’s important to remember that even though gardening is a pleasurable and rewarding way to get physical activity, it does come with risks that need to be considered before digging in. Bugs, uneven ground, muscle strain, dangerous tools and chemicals are all problems that could arise when you are putting your green thumb to work.

Here are some tips to ensure you enjoy gardening without stress or injury:

  • Wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves, ear plugs, sturdy shoes, long pants and long sleeves.
  • Use insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquitoes and ticks. 
  • Wear sunscreen to reduce your risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Keep harmful chemicals out of the reach of children. 
  • Sharpen tools carefully.
  • Follow instructions closely when using chemicals and equipment.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take breaks often.
  • Lift with your knees.
  • Consider using knee pads, a stool or a chair when working low to the ground.

Gardening may seem like a lot of work, but the fruits of your labor will make the time you spend in the garden worth it. The vibrant colors bursting from the ground and the butterflies and bumble bees frolicking through the flowers are sure to bring a smile to your face, even on grey summer days.