The practice of gardening, or cultivating the land to grow crops, has been proven to offer a range of psychological, physical and cognitive benefits, which is especially good news for seniors.
Older adults who take up the healthy hobby of gardening are giving themselves the opportunity to stay young, feel young and think young well into old age. And the good news is, it doesn’t take much for them to get started: just a small dirt area and a few packets of seeds.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of perks for seniors who try their hand at gardening.
It offers major cognitive benefits
Seniors who try gardening tend to realize significant benefits to their cognitive skills as they age. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found that gardeners had a 36% lower risk of developing dementia than non-gardeners, even when the analysis took other health factors into account.
Tending a garden also provides a rich sensory experience that keeps your senses sharp. In fact, memory care communities sometimes have “wander gardens” where residents can wander without getting lost, and the sights, smells and sounds of the garden help increase residents’ relaxation and enhance their sensory systems.
It keeps you physically healthy
By increasing your amount of exercise and keeping your body active, gardening can help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease and control high blood pressure. It’s also an activity that burns a lot of calories — up to 300 per hour — and helps you save them when you eat the nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables you grow. According to the American Journal of Public Health, men and women who garden are less likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t.
Gardening helps decrease the effects of osteoporosis via repetitive movements that strengthen joints and bones. In addition, engaging in regular physical activity outdoors while exposed to the sunlight prompts your body to manufacture Vitamin D, which helps improve your immune system.
It bolsters your psychological wellness
Tending a garden can also be a great source of stress relief, in part because it is a meditative activity that helps you enter a higher state of consciousness and clear your mind. In fact, Dutch researchers found that a half-hour of gardening helped subjects combat stress better than another popular leisure activity: reading.
Gardening also benefits your mental health because it provides a free source of anger management, so that you can take out your frustration on the dirt, not on others. Another benefit of gardening is that it bestows a sense of purpose and responsibility and teaches you new skills that foster a sense of confidence, can help seniors decrease depression and anxiety.
The Jackson Creek Senior Living campus features raised garden beds that residents can tend, along with gazebos, walking paths and an outdoor dining area. To learn more about gardening and other fun (and healthy) activities at Jackson Creek, contact us at (719) 259-1331.