Fall is finally here! Nothing beats the feeling of being outdoors and soaking yourself in nature, sunlight, and fresh air. Spending more time outdoors can boost vitality and make us feel happy and relaxed. The best part is that seniors can benefit from outdoor activities just as much as younger people.
However, encouraging them to take a stroll or take a pet on a walk can get boring at times while also carrying high risks of injury. So what is the most effective way to incorporate nature and physical activities to keep your parents healthy and entertained? Try gardening!
Learn about the six health benefits of gardening for seniors and some tips to stay safe while planting the seeds.
6 Amazing Gardening Benefits for Seniors & Caregivers
As a whole, gardening is the ultimate workout for the body and mind, with one hour of gardening equivalent to about 35 minutes of jogging.
Here are the six reasons it’s worth investing in a tiny patch of nature, whether your parents own a tiny patio or a vast plot of land.
Gardening Lowers Stress
With age, our seniors are left with fewer options to help them de-stress, especially when they now have to depend on someone else for almost everything. Over time, their stress levels can build up and lead to episodes of depression and anxiety.
Did you know that planting a garden is a wonderful stress-relieving activity for your parents and other older family members? In a study in which participants were split into half and were asked to do either gardening or reading a book for 30 minutes, the gardening group showed a greater reduction in stress hormone levels than the reading group — despite sharing the same outcome in stress reduction. Simultaneously, taking care of the garden can also increase serotonin — a hormone that makes you feel happier.
Health experts explain that when gardening, nature does a good job at shifting our minds away from stress, allowing them to refresh and cut out intrusive thoughts and negative feelings. On top of that, soaking ourselves in sunlight accompanied by fresh air can help improve our mood. So, what is your excuse for not starting gardening with your parents as soon as possible?
Gardening Boosts Immunity
Have you ever wondered why our seniors are prone to sickness despite staying most of the time indoors? This is because the immune system – like other bodily functions – tends to deteriorate with age. But it doesn’t mean your parents should accept their fate because there are many ways to reverse the situation, no matter how old they are.
In addition to adequate nutrition and routine vaccinations, spending the day outside digging in the dirt and watering plants and flowers can strengthen our immunity. Most people assume that having dirty fingernails means poor hygiene. Still, those bacteria present in soil can contribute to a thriving immune system. In a way, our immune system learns to balance its attack and tolerance mechanisms. With strong immunity, your parents are less likely to get sick, or they can bounce back more quickly.
Gardening Decreases the Risk of Stroke
Heart disease and stroke are relatively prevalent among seniors. While modern medications can be an effective management tool for various vascular conditions these days, leading a healthy lifestyle can do just as much – plus, they barely cost a dime!
However, some forms of exercise and workouts can be too much to handle for our seniors with specific mobility issues. Gardening may be a better yet less strenuous option to maintain their heart health.
A study has shown that a daily dose of gardening can reduce the risk of stroke and other vascular diseases in seniors over 60 by up to 30%. On top of that, vitamin D from sunlight is believed to be vital for vascular health. These reasons should be enough for your parents to begin cultivating a gardening habit!
Gardening Boosts Brain Health
Another issue that most seniors usually run into is brain decline. While no one knows the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia, nor do we know how to prevent our brain from worsening as we age, many health experts and scientists have claimed that gardening can address this tricky situation.
Making gardening a part of daily routine has been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia among seniors by up to 36% while also improving their motor skills, strength, endurance, problem-solving, and sensory awareness.
Gardening Increases Mobility
Staying active is perceived as a critical element of healthy aging. According to the CDC, seniors should engage in low-intensity workouts for at least 30 minutes five days per week and train their muscles twice a week. Sounds simple, right? But the reality is that not every senior can accomplish these fitness goals.
So, what is the solution? First, show your parents that they can switch to gardening instead, as taking care of their garden can keep them active despite old age. How could it be? When gardening, you are likely to do an all-body workout with many movements like squatting, lifting, bending, kneeling, and walking. These motions help reduce the risk of injury, increase blood flow, enhance muscle control, improve balance, and boost flexibility.
Gardening Strengthens Relationships
Spending time in the garden is a sentimental way to help you mentally connect with your parents through organically arising topics while playing in the dirt, especially if you are now living away from them. The topics surrounding gardening are endless. You might ask them something about planting their favorite flowers and vegetables or whether they should consider building a compost pile. It’s all up to you!
By planting seeds and nurturing plants together, gardening can help family members grow stronger and closer. On top of everything else, working with plants can help untangle sensitive familial issues so that you and your parents can calmly discuss disagreements and sort things out.
Too busy to garden with your parents? Encourage them to join a gardening club! Getting involved in this activity gives them more chances to make new friends and expand their social network while also assisting them in overcoming feelings of isolation and loneliness.
MORE TO EXPLORE: 9 New Hobby Ideas You Should Introduce to Your Parents
Stay Safe While Gardening: Safety Tips for Seniors
Despite being deemed universally safe for all seniors, gardening has risks. Here is a list of safety tips to help your parents stay safe while gardening.
- Don’t forget to warm up: As mentioned earlier, gardening is also a form of exercise. Therefore, warming up is crucial to help your parents avoid injury while getting up and sitting down. Remind them to take a few minutes to gently stretch and warm up their muscles before heading off to the garden.
- It’s OK to slow down & take breaks: As your parents age, they likely no longer have the same endurance they did when they were younger. Plus, the goal of gardening at older ages is more like a recreational approach to use time wisely and effectively rather than sweating yourself out in the garden. So tell your parents to pace themselves and take breaks when needed. There’s no reason to rush since seniors may experience life-threatening falls when dizzy or fatigued.
- Pick the right time for gardening: Obviously, doing gardening duties during the summer or on extremely hot days is never a good idea – for the sake of the plants and your parents. While your parents are at risk of dehydration, plants find it harder to retain water during the hottest hours. Instead, the best timeframe to start gardening is early morning or evening. Ideally, the temperature is much more tolerable for your parents, and the plants can absorb more water.
- Choose the right tools: In a way, the right gardening tools can make your parents’ gardening experience more enjoyable. Help them look for bright-colored tools with long rubber handles. Make sure they are senior-friendly with moderate weight since heavy-duty tools can take a toll on their joints. A stool or a bench nearby can help your parents recharge after standing for long periods.
- Stay hydrated: Yes, sure, gardening is fun, but it is also hard work! Since they are most likely to be under the sun for a while, drinking plenty of water is essential.
- Dress the part: When working outside, the chance to be in contact with the heat from the sun is probably unavoidable. As a result, it’s important to help your parents protect their skin and eyes against UV ray damage. Wearing sunscreen is not enough; go for long-sleeved shirts but ensure that they are made of breathable and lightweight material to help air circulate better during hot days. Also, don’t forget a big-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and shoes with closed toes to avoid tripping.
Get in Touch with Nature at 12 Oaks Communities
Aging has a strong link with many mental and physical health risks. However, engagement in recreational activities, such as gardening, is a beneficial pursuit that results in happiness and life satisfaction among seniors.
The 12 Oaks Managed Communities are always looking for new hobby ideas our residents can enjoy. We currently offer a variety of physical activities because we believe each resident in any of our communities has unique interests. Our team is driven to support their passions to the best of our abilities.
The retirement years don’t have to be a time of boredom or complacency. There are plenty of meaningful years to live, and your older family members can enjoy a thriving and vibrant lifestyle within our communities.
If you have questions about gardening benefits for seniors, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for questions or to schedule a personalized tour.
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Are you searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a visit.