Gardening is a labor of love that can produce wonderful fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers. There are also many health benefits of gardening for seniors, like residents at Aston Gardens retirement communities in Florida. For those who love to nurture plants, the unexpected benefits are pure bonus. It doesn’t matter whether you have a vegetable garden in your backyard, work in a community garden, or tend a patio planter, there are sustaining benefits that improve your quality of life.
Reduce the Risk of Dementia
An in-depth study which tracked 3,000 seniors for 16 years revealed that the most effective way to reduce the risk of developing dementia is to garden daily. The reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s ranged from 36% to as much as 47%, as a result of daily gardening. Much about Alzheimer’s is still unknown, but researchers concluded that gardening provides a huge benefit in avoiding Alzheimer’s because of the many critical functions involved, such as:
- Problem solving
- Sensory awareness
Although depression is suffered by the elderly on a wide scale, gardening can help a person avoid mental health issues. Gardeners report that working in a garden first thing in the morning produces more than sweat. The activity also provides a lift to the spirits, a claim gardeners make that has been given legitimacy through “horticultural therapy.” A relatively new but quickly growing field, horticultural therapy has yielded proven results for people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. Nourishing the senses is a component of the healing power of gardening. For the most benefit to mental health, build a garden that grows food, scents, and beautiful flowering plants.
Heal More Quickly
Gardening provides a healing atmosphere. Research was done which compared the rate of recovery from surgery between two groups. One group had a brick wall as a view, and the other had green trees to look at. The group with a view of nature healed more quickly to a significant degree. They also had fewer complications during recovery and needed less pain medication.
Improved Immune System
The Vitamin D you soak in from being in the sun gardening helps your body fight infection, and so does soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae. Found in the dirt that gets under a gardener’s fingernails, this bacteria has been found to alleviate symptoms of several conditions that are caused by a weak immune system. Asthma, allergies, and psoriasis may all be improved because of this soil bacterium; and that’s not all. Research shows that Mycobacterium vaccae also alleviates depression. It is absorbed through inhalation and through ingestion on vegetables.
Dexterity and Strength in the Hands
A common problem among the elderly is diminishing hand strength and dexterity, but gardening provides a solution. Activities involved with planting and growing gardens strengthen the muscles in the hands. There should be an exercise of caution, however, to avoid repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis. In order to safely garden and avoid damaging the nerves and tendons through repetitive motion, do warm-ups and be sure your body is in comfortable, ergonomic positions as you garden. Frequently change your tasks and switch from using the right hand to using the left hand, to keep your body in balance. Another benefit to using your non-dominant hand is that it strengthens brain function in the senior years.
Reduce Risk of Heart Problems
For heart health and to avoid a stroke, two and a half hours of moderate to intense exercise are needed every week. Gardening is one way to avoid heart problems, and it comes with more motivation than walking on a treadmill, like a mouse on a wheel. Among people over 60%, research shows that gardening regularly can cut the risk of a heart attack and stroke by up to 30%. The risk of dying from heart disease is believed to be doubled among seniors with the lowest levels of Vitamin D. In other words, staying indoors too much, especially sitting indoors too much, is a threat to your health.
A Healthy Gardening Schedule
The evidence is clear: Getting outside to garden is enormously healthy. For maximum health benefits, spend 30 minutes in your garden daily, whether all at once or 15 minutes in the morning and 15 in the evening. Additional benefits, not previously mentioned, include:
- Gardening reduces stress,
- Promotes relaxation,
- Helps to prevent osteoporosis and other diseases,
- Provides home-grown, nutritious produce,
- Improves balance through strengthening and endurance, and
- Encourages the use of all motor skills.
We love it when our residents at Aston Gardens retirement communities in Florida get in on the benefits of gardening.
Aston Gardens At Pelican Marsh is here to provide a range of senior living options for those ready to start the next chapter of their lives. Contact us today at 239.320.7828 to learn about our senior living programs, amenities, and floorplans.