Gardening in Assisted Living Communities

January 5, 2018

Many seniors love to garden. Some who move into assisted living communities may think that they must give up their hobby because they no longer have a yard. This does not have to be the case, as there are opportunities for seniors to continue being green thumbs after leaving their private homes.

Gardening is a hobby that offers numerous benefits that some seniors may not be aware of. Those who have not tried it may want to consider gardening in their spare time.


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Gardens Don’t Have to be Big

Gardens can be large enough to take up an entire backyard or small enough to fit on a windowsill, depending on a senior’s spatial or skill-based limitations.

A community garden within a senior living community can create experiences similar to private residences. The open space in these gardens allows residents the freedom to choose what they want to garden.

However, if a large community garden is unavailable or presents too much of a challenge, a balcony garden is another option. This setup can be achieved by placing a few potted plants on hooks, railings, or another apparatus suspended from a wall on a resident’s patio area. A series of vines or wall plants can be cared for as they mature on a small growing fence.

Setting a few potted plants inside or outdoors on an apartment windowsill is another alternative if this cannot be achieved. This allows plants to be closer to a senior’s living space, making upkeep very easy. Maintaining these plants can generally be done sitting down. Plant owners can call upon a friendly neighbor to water their window pots when traveling.

A gardening arrangement can be created for generally any situation within an assisted living retirement community.

Promotes Physical Activity and Relaxation

Using one’s hands to work in the soil for a few hours a week can be a form of physical exercise to help a senior’s body remain loose, limber, and healthy. Activities like watering plants, pulling weeds, raking, mixing soil, digging holes, and filling pots can work muscles in both the upper and lower body to a degree comparable to traditional, more controlled physical exercise. The intensity or frequency of these actions can also be adjusted based on an individual’s abilities or fitness levels. These chores can burn calories, and time spent outside in the sun can allow seniors to soak in vitamin D to improve the health of their immune system.

Placing plants in raised pots or containers also prevents gardeners from constantly bending over, which protects seniors’ backs and knees. The potential physicality of the work, coupled with being in fresh air among nature, can leave seniors feeling relaxed and with reduced stress.

Gardening as a Social Activity

A lack of social engagement can leave seniors feeling lonely, depressed, and lethargic. Gardening can be a way to get them engaged with other residents of the senior living community and build new connections. Working in a community garden is ideal for meeting new friends with common interests. It can also be a bonding activity and meeting spot for groups or individuals who enjoy spending time together.

Some communities offer gardening classes or competitions. These are additional ways to have a green thumb or develop one, which can lead to more social engagement. Even if a windowsill garden is the only option, seniors can still use those plants as conversation pieces to discuss seeding and maturing techniques. They can also be reasons to visit one another’s rooms to check on a plant’s growth progress.

Gardening is a passion for some and a budding hobby for others. Yet, no matter a senior’s skill level or space available, carrying the craft with them to a senior living community is possible and beneficial.

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