Gardening has many benefits, it’s an activity that is recommended for seniors, but you probably ask yourself, why is gardening good for seniors? Let me tell you more.
Gardening is good for seniors because it’s the perfect activity for getting regular exercise, strengthening mobility, coordination, reducing stress, and increasing social interactions. Seniors who are actively gardening reported many benefits, like better physical and mental health. Gardening increases problem-solving, which helps to maintain the brain’s cognitive functions.
In this article, I’ll tell you more about the different benefits of gardening for seniors. I’ll share exciting results from various studies worldwide, expert tips from seniors who are actively gardening, and more interesting facts about why gardening is good for seniors. Ready to learn more? Let’s start!
Benefits Of Gardening For Seniors
Gardening is a popular activity among seniors. There’s a certain magic to it, being outdoors, growing flowers, vegetables, and plants. Seniors highly benefit from gardening because it’s an activity with moderate physical intensity and helps you be in the present moment. This means that it reduces stress, improves the brain’s cognitive function, and strengthens the body.
These benefits are the main reason gardening is one of the most popular activities among people living in the world’s blue zones. Blue zones residents are known to reach a much higher age than average, often referred to as centenarians, because many are healthily reaching the respectable age of 100+.
So, you can say that gardening is a must-do activity for seniors who are serious about healthy aging. However, it can be challenging to be busy with gardening if you don’t have a garden yourself or experience health issues that limit your gardening experience. I’ll share tips on dealing with these limitations later in this article. First, as promised, let’s share the most important benefits of gardening for seniors.
1) Keeps You Active
When it comes to healthy aging, it’s important to stay active. The CDC in the United States mentions physical activity as one of the most important things someone can do when it comes to healthy aging. According to the CDC, the minimum requirements for physical activity for seniors are at least 150 minutes of low-intensity aerobic workouts and two times muscle-strengthening workouts a week.
This means 30 minutes of low-intensity aerobic workouts five days a week. Gardening is an activity where you easily reach these minimum requirements.
My father, who is 71, is very active in gardening in our garden. He uses a Fitbit activity tracker to track his daily exercise. When he is gardening for a few hours a day, he quickly gets over the 10000 steps and burns many calories. Activities like spading, lifting, raking, and trimming are all physical activities. It’s the perfect combination of low-intensity aerobic workouts and muscle strengthening training.
2) Stimulates The Mind
My father also mentions gardening as an activity where he needs to stay sharp and clear his mind. It’s something confirmed by many official studies.
According to Dr. Cyrus Raji, From the University of California, Los Angeles, “Physical activities that burn calories, like gardening, are associated with more grey matter in the brain. More grey matter means a healthier brain is associated with the reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Sure, after a day of work in the garden, my father is physically tired. Still, he says he has an incredible feeling of fulfillment at the end of the day.
Gardening often means unexpected problem-solving. Like when a plant is not growing as it should be or how to deal with pests. Problem-solving means learning new things all the time. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, learning new things slows cognitive aging. It’s important to stimulate our brains, just like when we focus on getting enough physical activity.
3) Increases The Happiness Hormone
Happiness is something we strive for in the modern-day world. But when busy striving for happiness, we often forget to be in the present moment. We look for things outside ourselves to be happy, but actually, the solution is right in front of us.
Gardening is not only helping you stay in the present moment, but it also triggers the release of serotonin, known as the happiness hormone. Double luck, I would say!
According to this article on Science Daily, soil contains a specific fat that is responsible for stress reduction and triggers the body to release serotonin. When you’re busy gardening, you’ll touch soil and dirt a lot, so good chance that you’ll benefit from this fact!
4) Helps With Mobility
When you’re aging, your mobility decreases, but gardening helps to stay mobile and flexible. Gardening has a lot of different movements like doing squats, lifting, and walking. These movements are known as exercises that keep you flexible. Also, when you’re busily spading, raking, moving soil, you’re doing muscle-strengthening activities. Weeding or trimming helps with hand-eye coordination and balance. You’re whole body benefits from gardening activities.
5) Improves Social Interactions
Having a strong social life is associated with many health benefits, like a lower risk of depression and longevity. According to this study, having a large group of social contacts is even linked to more significant health benefits. People with many connections outside the regular social circle of family and friends mentioned being happier, having fewer negative feelings, and getting more physical activity.
Many seniors are gardening in groups, often in community gardens. When you’re gardening in a community garden, you’ll get in contact with a lot of their people outside your regular social circle, which increases your social interactions. It’s an excellent opportunity to engage with others, discuss different subjects, and even make new friends.
6) Gets You Outside
Something strange is happening with how we spend our time. It’s happening in all age groups, but I’ll focus on people in the age of 64 and older for this article, which means seniors and retirees, so that you can easily relate to this. According to the BLS Time Use Survey, we spent 4,5 hours watching television a day!
We’re getting lazy. We just don’t move enough and are spending way much time inside our homes. Of course, it’s relaxing and comforting to chill on the couch watching television shows. However, like we started this article, getting enough physical activity is one of the most important things we can do when it comes to healthy aging.
Gardening is one of the solutions. It simply gets you outside. And being outside is essential for your well-being. Spending enough time outdoors means you’ll get enough vitamin-D exposure from the sun. It means you are more active (less time watching TV). It makes you happier and improves concentration.
7) Helps To Improve Your Diet
Okay, let’s be honest here. We all can change some things in our diet that will make us healthier. But really changing our diet isn’t a simple task. We are used to the convenience of fast food and pre-cooked meals.
However, when you’re growing fresh vegetables in your garden, you automatically create a new opportunity to eat healthier. It’s not only that you’re busy growing your own vegetables, but also because you know what type of soil and fertilizer you used to grow your vegetables and greens that make it a more nutritious option. Good chance that you go for the biological and most natural way possible to grow your vegetables. This means your homegrown vegetables are probably much healthier than you find in the grocery store.
According to Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, gardening inspires you to make better choices on what you put on your plate. In this article on Harvard Health Publishing, she says, “When you grew your own food, you enjoy it a lot more because of the effort it took to grow the food.”
8) Boosts Self-Esteem
Seniors who are regularly gardening have higher self-esteem. According to this research, gardeners have a higher body appreciation than non-gardeners. This sounds logical to me when you look at all the benefits gardening has.
Gardening simply makes you feel better. Your body gets stronger, balance and coordination increase, and you work on your mental health while gardening. These are all factors that improve your feeling of happiness. And we all know, when you’re feeling happy, you often feeling very self-confident as well.
9) Helps You Relax More
Gardening is a mindful activity, and isn’t that something we are all looking for nowadays? Even when we’re aging and retired, we still have many daily choices to make and a lot on our plates. Sometimes life can even be stressful when you’re a senior.
Meditation and Yoga are very popular activities among seniors when it comes to being more relaxed and mindful. However, gardening is also a beneficial activity to find more relaxation and work on your mental health.
As we discussed earlier, gardening helps you to stay in the present moment. The activities you’re doing while gardening doesn’t allow you to be busy with something else; it needs your full attention. Also, gardening is known that it has a positive effect on the hormone serotonin. The release of this hormone is triggered when you touch the soil or when you eat fresh vegetables from your garden. Serotonin is the happiness hormone and the opposite of dopamine, the stress hormone. So, gardening not only increases your happiness but also reduces your stress hormones.
10) Keeps You Busy
Having an active lifestyle and broad social interactions are related to healthy aging. As we can read in this article, seniors with many contacts outside their regular social circle are often happier and have a better mood.
When you’re gardening, you often meet other people, especially when you’re active in a community garden. So, as I mentioned before, it improves your social interactions. But that’s not all.
Gardening is also an activity that keeps you literally busy. You can’t start with gardening, ignore it, and expect it to grow itself. Unless you want to grow weed, but this isn’t really gardening, is it? So, gardening keeps you busy, because there’s always something to do in your garden to get the best results.
How To Start Gardening
When you’re inexperienced with gardening, you probably wonder how to start. It isn’t that difficult, but it depends on the opportunities you have at home. When they start with gardening, the first step for many people is simply growing some herb plants at home. It’s easy to grow herbs like basil, parsley, and mint.
If you want to increase your social circle, I recommend looking for a community garden. You’ll get in touch with new people and can learn how to garden so that you can benefit from it both ways. Just look online for community gardens close to the place you live, contact them and ask them to join.
Another great way to take your first steps as a gardener is by following a gardening class. The class that I recommend for you to follow is the MasterClass from Ron Finley, the LA-based fashion designer, and renowned urban gardener. Ron Finley is famous for his simple approach to gardening. He teaches people living in large cities how to make their city greener and start their gardens. Learn more about Ron Finley’s MasterClass here.
How To Safely Stay Outside
While writing this, I feel like this might be too simple for a recommendation. It sounds so logical to me that you need to pay attention when going outside. However, sometimes we just forget to take the basic precautions necessary when we get a lot of sun hours.
Gardening is good for your health, but it would be unlucky when you get sunburned all the time when gardening. So, please remember to put on sunscreen, wear a hat, and drink enough water when you are actively gardening.
Useful Gardening Tools For Seniors
When we’re aging, our mobility decreases. So some gardening activities are getting harder to accomplish. Sure, when you’re actively gardening, activities like doing a squat are getting easier when you do them enough. But luckily, there are also many helpful gardening tools available to make your life as a senior gardener much easier. For example, this kneeler bench which is available on Amazon, helps you get lower to the ground and protect your knees when gardening.