Gardening is a way to keep healthy and active in our golden years and the benefits are numerous, whether your garden is a quarter-acre plot or a few containers on a small balcony.
Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits for older people. Apart from providing beautiful vases full of flowers or nutritious produce, gardening can be an enjoyable form of exercise, which can improve mobility and flexibility. It can also help increase endurance and strength, and help to prevent diseases like osteoporosis. And tinkering around in your flower bed or tending to your container plants may reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Research published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that pottering in the garden or fixing up the house have been linked to a longer life in a study of people over the age of 60. Older people can struggle to exercise vigorously, with the study reporting that simply getting off the sofa and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle was a lifesaver with the risk of heart attacks and strokes cut significantly.
Other research suggests that the therapeutic qualities of gardens are becoming more recognised as a way to improve the health of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Research gathered by the nursery industry confirms that spending time in the garden may go some way to help soothe the agitation that commonly strikes people with dementia. Gardening can also provide sufferers with a much-wanted sense of control, which can also assist with social interaction.
Invaluable around hospitals and care homes, gardens are places of peace and quiet without overwhelming visual stimulation, a place for dementia sufferers and their carers to spend time together.
Gardening can improve quality of life for young and old alike. An attractive outdoor space gives people the opportunity to be physically active, feel unrestrained and connect with nature.
For those who are older, gardening can keep you in shape. In the journal HortScience, American researchers discovered that among the health benefits of gardening is keeping older hands strong and nimble. They found that older adults who are gardeners have better hand strength and pinch force, which is a big concern as people age.
Whether it’s the benefit of improved self-esteem, physical strength and flexibility or simply a place for us to relax and enjoy beautiful surroundings, gardening can put life in our years.