For seniors in our LiveWell by Blakeford program, even a small garden provides plenty of benefits beyond the beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables you’ll cultivate. Digging in the dirt, breathing fresh air, and getting moving are just a few ways your garden will help you thrive. Here’s how:
Healthy exercise that promotes strength, mobility
Gardening may not seem like a workout, but it’s definitely a light exercise that everyone can do and counts towards the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise. A recent study found that regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30 percent for people over 60.
In addition to being a great form of physical exercise, gardening increases mobility and strength. Keeping lesser-used muscles engaged, gardening has proven to be a productive way to rebuild strength and mobility, particularly following a stroke or other medical issue.
Improve brain health
Because gardening involves dexterity, problem-solving, endurance, and sensory awareness, studies published by the National Institutes of Health have reported it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia by as much as 36 percent.
For people who experience memory problems, getting back to the familiar hobby of working in flower and vegetable beds can also be comforting. The serenity found in the garden also provides a quiet atmosphere that many people struggling with memory issues benefit from.
Sunshine is the best medicine
The fresh air improves your mood and exposure to the sun helps your body produce vitamin D. It also boosts serotonin levels in the brain that helps you feel calm and more centered. Remember while the sun is awesome, don’t forget the sunscreen and a hat. It’s also critical to keep hydrated on those hot summer days and take frequent breaks in a shady spot.
Make your garden easy to work
For seniors, gardening doesn’t have to be a physical challenge. Garden spaces, tools and equipment can easily be modified to make them more accessible and easier to maintain. Simple fixes include:
— Practice vertical planting using walls, raised pots, hanging baskets or trellises to create gardens that can be maintained with little bending or time spent on your knees. Heavier pots can be placed on casters to make them easy to move.
— Look for senior-friendly tools at the local hardware store that are modified for easier gripping and use. These should also be lightweight which helps seniors use them more safely. Garden kneelers and seats can also be helpful for those who like to work closer to the ground.
— Make sure there’s a water source nearby so you don’t have to run a hose over a long distance. Consider using a soaker hose or drip feeder system so irrigation can be done with the turn of a spigot. This way there’s no need to lift and carry heavy watering cans or wrestle with unruly hoses.
Native Flowers make life easy and beautiful at Blakeford
In Nashville, our native flowers are stunning at any time of year. We’ve found that planting native varieties not only makes our resident’s garden colors pop, they are also low maintenance.
Native flowers including Asters, Lemon Mint, Northern Sea Oats, Sunburst, Sweet White Trillium, Virginia Bluebell, Wild Columbine, Winterberry, and Woodland Phlox. In all sorts of combinations, these will provide a good splash of color and flourish with minimal effort.