Gardening Benefits and Safety for Seniors

gardening in pots

There is nothing like the feeling that summer brings. Warmer temperatures make it hard to resist the great outdoors and all the activities the longer days allow. One such activity, gardening, has multiple benefits, especially for our older loved ones.

Health Conscious

Gardening is a moderate intensity workout—perfect for hitting your recommended thirty minutes of cardio per day, which improves cardiovascular health and reduces risk of heart attack and stroke. Bonus, if you enjoy gardening, it doesn’t feel like a workout! The motions of gardening also help mobility and flexibility, supporting strength and balance.

Fifteen to thirty minutes of sun exposure is also the ideal amount of time to increase Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, boosts the immune system, and reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Peace of Mind

Gardening uses critical brain functions like sensory awareness and problem-solving, providing significant stimulation that can lead to mental clarity. Not only is gardening known to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, but studies have suggested it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, gardening doesn’t have to be a solo project! It’s a great way to socialize with friends and family—and a great skill to pass down to the grandkids. Quality time with the ones you love is excellent food for the soul.

Safety First

Before spending a lot of time outdoors, remember your sunscreen! The body’s natural ability to repair damaged DNA diminishes with age, there’s a higher likelihood of abnormal cell growth that leads to cancer. Use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen and reapply every couple of hours. A large brimmed hat will protect your face, scalp, and neck from sun overexposure, and sunglasses will protect your eyes from the light.

Protecting yourself from chemicals and sharp equipment is equally as important. Did you know tetanus lives in the soil? Paired with sharp gardening tools, it’s a real threat to gardeners. Wear gloves, sturdy shoes, and appropriate clothing to keep yourself safe from dangers in the garden. Make sure your tetanus/diphtheria vaccination is up-to-date. All adults should be vaccinated every ten years. If you take a medication that causes side effects like fatigue or dizziness, don’t push it. Stay away from machinery, climbing ladders, or other activities that could cause injury.

Repeated kneeling and bending over low beds can cause significant strain and present a fall risk. Raised beds or vertical gardens allow you the opportunity to continue to do a hobby you love while keeping you safe from physical harm.

Take breaks, especially in hot weather. Keep healthy snacks on hand to recharge and drink lots of water. Dehydration is particularly damaging for older adults and can mimic the symptoms of dementia, cause urinary infections, and more.

Finally, don’t forget to clean up after yourself. Equipment and uncoiled hoses are a fall hazard for anyone who isn’t paying attention to their surroundings. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by tucking everything away before you turn in for the day.

Overall, the benefits of gardening far outweigh the risks. Not only do you get the exercise and Vitamin D you need to remain healthy, but the outcome is a colorful, beautiful landscape for your home or fresh fruits and veggies for your meals! If you’re interested in learning how Aegis Living communities incorporate gardening into their life enrichment programs, call your nearest community to chat with a Life Enrichment Director.