Nowadays, most of us are dealing with lockdown due to COVID-19, and the virus has made the elderly spend most of their time at home. There are various hobbies for seniors that they can enjoy during this period, and gardening is one of them. Growing plants and gardening is an enjoyable and rewarding activity for older adults. The benefits of gardening for seniors are numerous, and in addition to entertaining, it is also beneficial for improving their health. In this article, we are going to talk about the well-being benefits of gardening for seniors :
Gardening Reduces Stress
Studies have shown that gardening can lower cortisol levels, reducing stress, and even lower blood pressure. In one study, two senior participants had to read a book and do gardening for 3 minutes after a stressful activity. The results showed that the cortisol level decreased after the activities in both groups, but the group that started gardening felt much better, while the group that read the book was less energetic.
Besides, exposure to outdoor sunlight and creating a gardening space will reduce anxiety and provide well-being for the elderly.
Gardening Releases Serotonin
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that increases tranquillity and causes a positive change in mood. One of the benefits of gardening for older adults is increasing the serotonin level in their minds, followed by a pleasant health experience. In some studies, gardening even reduces depression. This study showed that contact with a specific bacterium in the soil causes serotonin release in the brain and acts as a natural antidepressant.
Gardening Protects Hearts and Reduces Stroke Risk
Physical exercise while gardening is another beneficial factor of gardening. Gardening can be considered a great sport and as a daily exercise. According to a study conducted in Sweden, regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people over 60 by 30%. Also, exposure to the sun can increase vitamin D levels, which reduces the risk of a heart attack in old age.
Gardening can increase mobility
As discussed earlier, gardening has various advantages for the health of seniors. The movements done during gardening can build power and strength, increasing the mobility of less exercised muscles. The workouts during gardening can help the elderly prevent diseases such as Osteoporosis.
On the other hand, gardening is light exercise. Since all body parts are involved, it can encourage the person to use all motor skills.
Gardening Improves Brain Health in Elderly
While the causes of Alzheimer‘s and ways to prevent it are not well known, research has shown that positive choices and positive activities in people’s lives reduce the risk of developing the disease. Gardening is one of the methods that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Studies have shown that gardening can reduce the risk of dementia by up to 36%.
It Is Possible To Lose Weight By Gardening
Gardening involves planting and pulling weeds and can help the seniors burn 200 to 400 calories per hour that is very appealing. It is an activity where you have to bend, squat, stretch, and pull essential elements in most exercise plans. Hence, gardening can act as an exercise to shed extra fat.
Gardening Improves Immune System
You might think that gardening involves working with the soil, and it can be messy. However, several studies have shown that Mycobacterium vaccae in the soil become your immune system’s power. This bacteria can protect you against asthma, some allergies, and, most importantly, depression.
Gardening Improves Mood
Usually, gardening is in the fresh air, and it can help your mood. as said before, working under the sunlight also gives us more vitamin D, which affects our mood. Therefore, gardening is one of the best ideas for those of the elderly suffering from depression. Please consider that the sun’s rays can be dangerous, so applying sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses while working in the garden is necessary.
Gardening for Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease
If the older adult has Alzheimer’s disease and is struggling with a dementia disease, be sure to consider a garden area that is safe for them, and you can easily protect them.
Gardening activities play a vital role in improving the physical and mental health of seniors. If you do not have access to a garden, you can use pots for window space or a small space on the terrace to consider gardening and use small ready-made gardens. In this case, they won’t need to go outside to the garden and enjoy the company of flowers and plants beside them.
So far, we have discussed various effects of gardening on seniors’ health, but there are some safety measures that the elderly have to pay attention to while gardening. Some of these measures are as follows:
Use Big Vases
While gardening at home, it is necessary to use large and tall pots to help the elderly not bend over. That prevents back pain as well as dizziness.
Use Lighter Gardening Tools
We are not expecting that people over 65 to become professional gardeners. So they do not need to use bulky agricultural devices and tools. You may need many gardening tools, so choose the lightest ones to avoid abusing your body and have a pleasant gardening experience.
Wearing gardening gloves and comfortable shoes are also a necessity. There might be some chemicals and fertilizers in the soil that can damage your skin. The uneven surface of the land also can irritate your feet. Never forget suitable shoes.
Use Sunlight Protection
As noted earlier, sun rays are beneficial for absorbing vitamin D, but excessive exposure to the sun can damage the body. Older adults shouldn’t work too much on hot sunny days. They should use sunscreen, hats, or umbrellas designed to protect them from the sun. Having a water bottle beside you is very important because of dehydration, which is extremely dangerous during old age.
Have a Gardening Chair
The elderly shouldn’t bother themselves too much during gardening. Seniors have started this activity for fun, and it is a hobby for them, so they should take care of themselves. Having a chair is necessary since they can sit and rest when they are tired. It is also possible to create a shade to sit and enjoy watching what they have achieved. The advantages of gardening for seniors do not stop when the plants and flowers flourish. The garden should be a place to enjoy, and placing some benches and chairs can make it a proper place to enjoy nature’s scenery.
The elderly need a companion to let go of their sense of loneliness, and gardening is one of the safest solutions. Some seniors decide to keep a pet as a companion, but this is not 100% safe because of potential infections. Plants live and need care as children, so the elderly can busy themselves taking care of them.
As mentioned earlier, there is no need to have an outdoor garden. You can create a mini garden in your yard, or you can plant some flowers on the windowsill. Nowadays, seniors can use the terrarium, too. A terrarium is a container made of glass that is sealed and contains soil and plants. It is possible to open them for maintenance and access the plants. They are suitable for old adults who cannot leave the house to enjoy gardening.
The utmost enjoyment of gardening comes from seeing crops or flowers. They create a sense of life in seniors. Regardless of whether they are planting crops or flowers indoors or outdoors, they can feel this sense. So, to provide the condition for the seniors to start gardening, don’t hesitate.