Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 1 – Maturing Gracefully with Your Garden by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Nance Tucker in the Jeffco PlantSelect Garden,  photo by Carol Russell
Many of us from the baby boom era are approaching retirement thrilled to finally have time to play in the garden but also with angst because our bodies just don’t function as they once did. After I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I thought my gardening days were over - not so. I continue to garden and continue to learn. However, I needed some inspirational tips and science-based knowledge to improve my long-term, quality-of-life in the garden.

The Russell Fourth of July Garden in Golden, photo by Carol Russell
The following blogs in this series on Senior Gardening include tips and techniques I’ve learned along the way to make gardening easier, safer and more enjoyable. Titles for the upcoming blogs include the following:

  1. Mature Gracefully with your Garden, 
  2. How to Design and Modify your Senior Garden, 
  3. Accessible Garden Pathways,  
  4. Raised Planting Beds and Container Gardening, and
  5. Tools to make Gardening Safer and Easier.

Gardening is Good for Healthy Aging  
Gardening is America’s favorite leisure outdoor activity, enjoyed by more than 78 million people, according to the National Gardening Association. For most of us, gardening provides a retreat from the hectic, stressful day-to-day grind into a healthful and healing existence. Yet many feel the need to give it up as they become less physically able. I challenge you to explore the many ways gardening can enrich your life as a senior gardener in many ways – both physically and mentally.

  • Is an enjoyable form of exercise; 
  • Increases levels of physical activity and helps mobility and flexibility;
  • Encourages use of all motor skills;
  • Improves endurance and strength;
  • Helps prevent diseases like osteoporosis;
  • Reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation;
  • Provides stimulation and interest in nature and the outdoors;
  • Improves wellbeing as a result of social interaction; and
  • Can provide nutritious, home-grown produce. 

Healthy Gardening
Gardening is consistently reported as an enjoyable, health-enhancing source of activity for older adults. Researchers found that “seniors who dig gardening” reported significantly higher quality-of-life, physical activity participation, and perceptions of personal health when compared with non-gardeners. These are just subjective responses.  But scientific studies have confirmed a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in cognitive function, quality of life, and sense of community.  Research has also shown that those who were able to view trees and sky recovered faster from illnesses.  Numerous studies have also shown reductions in blood pressure, anxiety, pain and other symptoms of stress when patients were offered just a videotape or a photograph of a natural scene.  From: Gardening is Beneficial for Health

Therapeutic Gardening
What makes a garden therapeutic? The basic features of a therapeutic garden can include wide and gently graded accessible entrances and paths, raised planting beds and containers, and a sensory-oriented plant selection focused on color, texture, and fragrance.  From: Gardens for Healthy Aging 
Tips for Healthy Gardening
However, to enhance the healthy aspects of gardening, I suggest that you:
  • Minimize sunlight exposure by wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing, eye protection, sunscreen, a big hat to shade your face and gardening gloves, 
  • Avoid being out between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.,
  • Drink plenty of water, and
  • Allow time for shady breaks to enjoy your garden.
The longer you garden, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn. For more information: