Person holding small tree with dirt on their hands

Enjoying Gardening and Reaping the Healthy Rewards

Person holding small tree with dirt on their hands

 

Safety Tips for Seniors Taking Up Gardening

Gardening is known for its many health benefits from increased levels of vitamin D to healthy exercise. More frequently, doctors are prescribing this outdoor activity for seniors. By staying
active and getting time outside, seniors can reap many benefits from this hobby.

Studies show numerous benefits of gardening, such as increasing cortisol levels, which reduce anxiety and stress. Many are exploring the potential link between the reduced risk of dementia in some patients and this outdoor activity. Working in the dirt with your bare hands can also boost your immune system and mental health due to the microorganisms that exist in soil.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some ways you can take up gardening and enjoy all the benefits with safe mobility in mind.

Before we take a look at some of the solutions, it makes sense to look at some of the avoidable dangers of gardening. Lifting heavy objects or spending too much time on one’s knees can cause strain or injury. Over exertion is another risk, along with sun exposure. Walking on uneven, soft, or rocky terrain is also a concern. However, with simple tools and precautions, you can spend meaningful time in the garden and reap its many benefits.

Before Going into the Garden:

Stretching: Before and after working in the garden, much like any exercise, one should undertake a series of simple stretches. These stretches will limber the joints and protect the muscles and help to prevent against injury. Read our article on Yoga and Tai Chi here.

Hydration: Gardening is a physical activity and as such, causes perspiration. When done in the hot summer months, this is intensified. Drinking water before, during, and after gardening is a simple way to avoid dehydration, as well as other conditions such as heat exhaustion.

Clothing: Light-weight clothing helps to protect from both the sun and heat. Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, keep the bugs at bay and help keep you safe and cool. Hats keep the sun off your head, face, and neck. And make sure to wear supportive, comfortable footwear for increased stability.

Gloves: Gardening can take a toll on one’s hands, but if you enjoy it, getting in the dirt with bare hands has the added benefit from the microorganisms. Beyond the dirt, when pruning, digging, and weeding, skin is exposed to wear, scratches, etc. That is a great time to add gloves to protect your hands and ensure that you can continue to work in your garden day after day.

Safe Gardening Solutions for Seniors

Raised Beds: A great way for seniors to stay safe while gardening is to use raised beds or planters that are raised off the ground. These beds reduce the need to bend over kneel for lengthy periods of time. Ensure that the ground walking to, from, and around the gardening areas are smooth and free of obstacles.

Benches and Seats: Much like the raised beds, there are now a wide array of options for bench seats that can help seniors enjoy gardening while preventing injury or over exertion. For the larger gardens, certain benches come with light weight wheels or can fold into a small and easy to carry seat solution.

Garden Hoses: Watering is a necessary part of gardening, but lugging around heavy, inflexible hoses can be more than a chore. It can be downright dangerous. Opting for a lighter, flexible tubing can make watering an enjoyable task rather than a heavy burden.

Garden Carts: To avoid carrying heavy objects, carting plants to various places in the yard, or lugging other gardening essentials, simple and easy to push carts are great solutions. These carts take the stress and strain off of the person and make it easier to transport items around the yard. Better yet, find a family member or friend that enjoys spending time outdoors and can help you with the heavy lifting.

There are many garden clubs, tours, events, and volunteer opportunities throughout the growing seasons. Check out your local tourism office or senior center for local happenings. This is also a great way to be more social with family, friends, and in your community!

Here’s just one example of a great way to volunteer – Marion Polk Food Share Community Gardens:  https://www.marionpolkfoodshare.org/programs/community-gardens/.

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