Gardening for Seniors

Gardening benefits seniors in so many ways and, with a few adaptations, can continue until age 90 and beyond.

Gardening is good physical activity, involving bending, carrying, stretching and upper-body work, such as hoeing and raking. Vegetable gardening also provides more nutritious food, thus improving overall health. For those on a limited income, gardening helps stretch food dollars. Where fresh produce is not readily available, raising your own certainly helps.

Just being outside enjoying fresh air and sunshine has important health benefits. Gardening helps mentally, too. It gives a sense of purpose and rewards you with a harvest of gorgeous flowers or fresh food to enjoy yourself and share with others.

When gardening is a group activity, it's more fun and alleviates the social isolation some seniors experience. Joining a garden club or other organization promotes gardening and creates camaraderie. You'll learn new things and meet new people. Most county extension services can provide information and contacts.

Gardening is often encouraged in retirement communities. Staff members do the heavy lifting and soil preparation. Raised beds allow seniors to tend their gardens without stooping or kneeling. Often these beds are built with seating along the sides.

Community gardens encourage everyone to participate. Seniors can share their knowledge and encourage patience. In a community garden, seniors can be role models and make a meaningful contribution. A community garden puts seniors in contact with those of different ages and experiences.

Container gardens are a good way for seniors living in apartments or town homes to maximize their outdoor space. Whether you want to raise flowers, vegetables or both, a great deal can be done on a small patio or balcony. Special varieties of vegetables have been developed specifically for container gardening.

Trellises and vertical gardens also maximize available space. Vegetables such as beans, peas and cucumbers can be grown on a trellis. A tiered garden is a more permanent structure, and maximizes space. Manufactured versions are available, or these can be custom-built.

Garden tools with larger handles and softer grips make chores such as pruning more comfortable, especially for those with arthritis. Oxo, one of the same manufacturers that creates kitchen utensils designed for seniors, now takes those design to the garden, allowing seniors to comfortably perform many garden tasks. If you want to take on larger projects, small electric garden tillers are lightweight, easy to use, maintenance-free and amazingly powerful.

For those with vision, balance or mobility issues, ensure the garden is free of tripping hazards and uneven terrain. Provide seating if necessary, whether along the side of beds or in lightweight chairs. In-ground irrigation systems can eliminate the need to pull water hoses.

A few simple changes allow gardening to remain an enjoyable, even desirable, activity for seniors.

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Window boxes also provide gardeners with limited space an opportunity to expand their gardens. They can take your garden quite literally to another level.

With just a few minor changes to your gardening routine, seniors suffering from arthritis and other ailments can have the option to garden again.

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