Why gardening is the perfect pastime for the elderly

Gardening is one of those activities that almost anyone of any age can do and as we move into the summer months it can be a great way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sun. Luckily gardening is an activity that doesn't require a large amount of land or effort, plus it's something that can be done in the comfort of your own home. Gardening is associated with improving core strength, reducing stress and blood pressure as well as keeping joints healthy. In addition to this, the act of gardening also produces healthy foods which has a whole host of health benefits as discussed in our blogs on nutrition. Individuals living with mobility issues or those who do not have much room in their garden can still enjoy gardening by utilising raised beds or containers. It has a huge range of benefits and can end up becoming a genuine passion once you begin to master the process. Here are some reasons as to why gardening is worth taking up:

Betters self-esteem & mental health:

Gardening has been associated with increasing self esteem and lowering stress levels. This is due to that fact it is a relatively simple process of growing a plant from seed to flower and you receive a tangible (physical) object at the end (e.g. a flower or some food). This releases a chemical in the brain that is related to controlling mood. The act of gardening can also be a great relaxer and can be used as a big stress relief tool. This is because when you are gardening, similarly to other forms of exercise, it makes you very focused on the activity at that point in time and with gardening requires both mental and physical effort. It is also an activity which you can spend hours doing, checking that all plants are healthy, there are no weeds and that it all looks pleasing to the eye. It is also possible that certain traits required when gardening such as attention to detail will also transfer across into other parts of your life and can make certain situations in your life easier to deal with.

For those with more complex gardens or plants that require more attention, gardening can help maintain a sense of purpose and responsibility towards something. This is especially true for seniors living by themselves and cannot manage a pet. It is less responsibility than a pet but if you want the plants to look good and grow, you need to look after it properly. The garden can also be a good place to do activities with family and friends so it will need to be kept in a suitable state for that to take place. 

Garden design can also help promote creativity. Space constraints, plant needs and aesthetics will all impact how you can layout your garden and this will take some planning and creativity. This can be a fun experience and can be a social tool as well, by asking for other peoples opinion and bouncing ideas of one another. Being creative and keeping the brain working will help boost mood,  improve brain functions and also help sharpen memory which can help greatly in daily tasks.

Improve your physical wellbeing:

There are a huge range of physical benefits that gardening can provide. Firstly it is a light/moderate form of exercise depending on the type of work you are doing. Moving logs, rocks and other heavy objects will help build muscle and core strength as well as lower body fat, all positive impacts on overall health. The constant movement will also help keep joints from seizing up and can help them stay supple and flexible. Gardening can also help improve hand dexterity and strength and has been used as a rehab method for stroke victims in the past. Remember to not repeat the same movements too much as this can lead to injuries however if you switch hands and activity regularly it will show great improvement over time. 

During the spring and summer, gardening outdoors will mean you are exposed to much higher levels of vitamins D which has been found to strengthen bones and the immune system and lower the chances of developing prostate cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple sclerosis as well as many health issues.

Gardening is a stress relieving, calming activity and as a result reduces blood pressure without the need for any medical intervention. As you continue to tend to the plants in your garden the more your blood pressure will reduce to a regular level, this can help many systems throughout the body work more efficiently and help you live a healthy life for as long as possible. The stress relief in combination with the physical activity and strengthening of the heart can also reduce the likelihood of stroke and heart attacks. One final physical benefit that gardening can have on the body is that it can help further strengthen the immune system as you are getting exposed to strains of bacteria found in the soil. Some of these bacteria also encourage the brain to release serotonin, a chemical that promotes positive mood.

Social Benefits:

Finding a community garden or opening your own garden up to other in the community is an amazing way to connect with your neighbours and make new friends. It is a very social activity and can take up a whole day or just 30 minutes. It is also a great opportunity to learn from others and teach new skills to new people. If you want to keep your gardening to yourself but still want some help/social benefit from it, have family come round and help. This way it remains a more private activity and you can enjoy the garden together.

Other Benefits:

If you grow herbs, fruits and vegetables then chances are you are going to eat them. This not only will save you money as you won't be buying them from the shop but you will have a superior product in most cases, free from any pesticides. You may even be tempted to try growing and eating produce you have tried before or do not usually eat. This change in diet again can have a profound effect of your overall health.

Longer gardening sessions not only provides the mental and physical benefits we have covered throughout this article but also will tire you out meaning that when night time rolls around you will find it much easier to fall asleep and sleep through until the morning. For this reason it is recommended that people with sleep issues consider long, low impact exercise like gardening to make falling asleep that bit easier.


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