Many seniors love to garden. Some who move into assisted living communities may think that because they no longer have a yard they must give up a hobby. 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 taking up gardening in their spare time.
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 spacial or skill-based limitations.
A community garden within a senior living community can create similar experiences to private residences. The open space these gardens allow presents a degree of freedom in how and what residents can choose to garden.
However, if a large community garden is not available or presents too much of a challenge, another option is a balcony garden. This set-up can be achieved with the placement of 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.
If this cannot be achieved, setting a few potted plants either inside or outdoors on an apartment windowsill is another alternative. 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. When traveling, plant owner's can call upon a friendly neighbor to water their window pots.
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 that can 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 regimented 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 having to constantly bend 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 an ideal way to meet new friends with common interests. It can also be a bonding activity and meeting spot for groups or individuals that enjoy spending time together.
Some communities offer gardening classes or competitions. These are additional ways that having a green thumb, or developing one, can lead to more social engagement. Even if a windowsill garden is the only option, seniors can still use those plants as conversation pieces in discussing seeding and maturing techniques. They can also be reasons to visit one another's rooms to check on the progress of a plant's growth.
Gardening is a passion for some and a budding hobby for others. Yet no matter a senior's skill level or how much space they have available, it's possible and beneficial to carry the craft with them into a senior living community.