Gardening: For Mind, Body and Spirit
Toiling the soil, feeling the sunshine on your skin and rubbing the sweat off your brow, may seem like work, but there is something enriching, perhaps soul-cleansing, when tending a garden.
Gardening is a therapeutic activity that the young and young-at-heart can find pleasurable, and many older adults find that the act of gardening can cultivate a better quality of life. This is especially true for seniors experiencing a cognitive or physical decline.
Consider gardening as a way to:
Engage the mind. From digging to planting, and all the preparations in between, the act of gardening is a step-by-step thinking process that keeps the mind active. Gardeners benefit from mental stimulation such as problem-solving, focused concentration, following verbal direction, and more!
Keep the body robust. Gardening is a form of exercise that helps increase dexterity, flexibility, blood flow (especially to the brain), oxygenation, endurance and strength. When you can grow a garden outdoors, getting healthy sun exposure increases vitamin D production, which has its own health benefits, such as reducing your risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and some cancers.
Bonus: You can also meet your recommended amount of physical activity when performing certain acts of gardening. The guidelines, outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggest older adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
Rejuvenate the spirit. Gardening induces the feelings of calm and relaxation and helps to increase self-esteem. Access to a resident garden, like those found in senior living communities, promote social interactions among like-minded peers. Studies show that tending a garden helps seniors living with dementia recall positive memories. Research shows activities stimulating the senses allow those living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia the opportunity to reconnect with positive emotions they may no longer experience.
The benefits of gardening don’t end there! There is nothing better than a fresh garden tomato or a bouquet of flowers grown in your own back yard. And, while there is more to gardening than beautiful bouquets or fresh produce, there are few activities that provide both intrinsic and tangible rewards.
There are several ways you can enjoy gardening. You can get down in the dirt, find the support from a raised gardening bed or care for a small container plant. Ergonomic tools also add convenience and help seniors have a more pleasurable experience tending plants. Whatever your preference for gardening may be, just get out there (or stay inside) and dig in!