Studies show that the benefits of gardening extend far beyond the obvious material benefit of having fresh fruits and veggies at an arm’s reach. Gardening also has physical, emotional, and psychological benefits, making it a therapeutic and productive pastime for people of all ages. Perhaps surprisingly, seniors may reap the most benefits from regular gardening, which would explain why gardening has become an increasingly popular activity at senior living facilities and in retirement communities. What exactly do seniors stand to gain from picking up a gardening habit? The benefits are vast and encompass nearly all key areas of health and wellness!
Gardening has long been associated with promoting physical health. The act of growing one’s own wholesome, nutrient rich food fosters an interest in maintaining a balanced, healthy diet. Homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs and spices, and naturally ripened fruit make easy and delicious snacks that can fight against high cholesterol and blood sugar while promoting bone, heart, and joint health. Additionally, maintaining a garden encourages consistent physical activity. Pulling up weeds, turning soil, and planting seeds can increase flexibility and mobility without causing injury or overexertion. In fact, this kind of exercise often barely feels like exercise at all. Spending time outside in the fresh air can be reinvigorating, and the physical labors that come with maintaining a garden keep bodies healthy without wearing them down.
When seniors create “wellness plans” for their daily living, mental wellness often gets overlooked. However, mental wellness is as important as physical wellness when it comes to living a happy, fulfilling life. Depression, stress, and anxiety are daily realities for many seniors. Gardening—a productive, repetitive task—can help ease stress and provide a sense of purpose and control in a world of uncertainties. Studies show that keeping a garden makes people happier, and the consistent work that goes into gardening is rewarding and mindful. Gardening has been described as a kind of “meditation” that encourages gardeners to spend peaceful and enriching time in nature away from the hustle and stress of ordinary life.
As all gardeners know, bringing a plot of dirt and seeds to life requires a lot more than simple intuition. Gardening is an intellectual labor too, requiring research, troubleshooting, and creativity every step of the way. From deciding what to plant to laying out crops, fertilizing soil, and pruning plants in the off season, gardening is a constant effort, a task that can be perfected through practice and patience. Senior gardeners are living proof that the life-long process of learning never really stops, and learning new skills is always a valuable pursuit, regardless of age or ability.