When you think of gardening, you probably don’t think of it as an activity to do with aging loved ones; after all, gardening requires physical exertion and mental engagement that may be too difficult or time-consuming for some older adults. However, as we’ll see in this article, there are numerous surprising advantages of gardening that make this an ideal pastime for older people and improve their overall health and sense of well-being.
Improved Social Interaction
Outdoor activities are social by nature. When you spend time in your garden, whether with other people or on your own, you’ll be making connections. And, as social animals, we all benefit from connecting with others. A recent study suggests that those who garden regularly are less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease!
Reduction of Stress
Studies have shown that gardening for people in their golden years lowers stress and decreases negative emotions. Experts attribute it to being in contact with living things such as plants, which release oxytocin, a hormone known to reduce anxiety. Decreasing stress also has positive effects on health. People with high cortisol levels in their blood are at a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Encouragement of Physical Movement
Gardening doesn’t need to mean tilling and digging. You can take a more light-handed approach by simply weeding and pruning. If you are more ambitious and want to incorporate some physical activity into your gardening routine, consider other forms of movement as well: try dancing or playing music while working in your garden.
Exposure to a Natural Source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of those rare nutrients that isn’t found in many foods, so we have to get it from other sources. Sunlight, specifically direct sunlight, is especially important for people in their golden years because their bodies tend to make less vitamin D when they spend time outdoors. Working in a garden full of sun-soaked fruits and vegetables helps get them some much-needed vitamin D exposure – which in turn can reduce the risk for conditions like osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. That benefit alone makes me want to plant a garden!
Enjoy Fresh Air
One of gardening’s major advantages is that it allows people over 50 to enjoy fresh air and sunlight. Since many aging adults spend most of their time indoors, gardening allows them to take a break from indoor activities and get some healthy doses of fresh air and sunshine.
Another advantage of gardening is that it encourages physical activity. The act of gardening helps keep aging adults in shape as they bend down, water plants, cut grass, and trim hedges. While these are simple acts, they help improve balance and boost flexibility among aging adults who usually suffer from muscle stiffness due to age-related illnesses like arthritis or osteoporosis. As a bonus benefit, regular exercise also improves heart health by lowering blood pressure levels.
Sharpen the Mind
Many elderly say that working in their gardens helps keep them mentally sharp. The challenges of gardening, including planning and organizing which plants to place where, with what spacing, is an important mental exercise. It’s also a good distraction from everyday worries and stressors. When you’re worrying about how to care for your rose bush or tomato plants, it’s easier to forget about all those bills piling up in your mailbox. This is also true for less complicated tasks around your house; they all require some degree of planning and forethought, whether you’re putting away laundry or setting out coffee cups before guests arrive.