Seniors go through a lot as they age and have a lot to contend with when it comes to their bodies changing and the health challenges that come with that. One of the biggest challenges for older adults is protecting their mental health along with their physical health. Understanding how gardening can help mental health is a big step in the right direction!
With the increased interest and participation in gardening among senior adults, especially those receiving in-home care or who are in assisted living facilities, the impact gardening activities can have on the mental wellness of people is a hot topic today. Medical experts, doctors, and scientists are continually studying the effects of gardening on both the mental and physical health of senior adults. There are several ways that gardening can benefit seniors’ health. Here’s what you need to know about the mental and physical benefits of gardening.
Ideas for Exposing Seniors to Gardening Activities and Boosting Mental Health
While most people know, even subconsciously, that being outside in nature is good for us, many do not fully understand how gardening can help mental health in senior adults. There are a number of ways this occurs as well as plenty of simple yet effective ways to ensure seniors get the outdoor time and exposure to nature that they need.It could be as simple as setting up a small area in their room with some potted plants that they can enjoy and take care of. A senior care center could have a small garden area for residents to enjoy as they sit or walk around. Nursing homes and adult living facilities can often offer gardening classes and activities for residents on a smaller scale. And for seniors not yet needing advanced physical outside care, they could take care of a garden at their own homes and enjoy time outdoors that way. There are many other options and combinations of these and other ideas that can help seniors improve not just their physical health but their mental health as well.
So read on to learn more about how gardening can help mental health in senior adults!
Ways Seniors Can Benefit From Gardening and Working With Plants
It is important to remember when looking at how gardening can help mental health, especially when talking about seniors, that mental and physical health are very closely connected. Improving physical health will help mental health and stability. When physical health is failing, mental health will also start to suffer. So, working on boosting mental health and wellness in senior adults also includes ensuring their physical health is supported as well. Fortunately, being outside and engaging in activities such as gardening, does both! Here are some ways seniors can benefit from gardening activities:
Allows Them to Escape the World
Even people who are otherwise physically and mentally fit find gardening to be a great way to escape the world around them for a time. After a stressful day being outside surrounded by nature can help someone relax and unwind and feel better physically and mentally. It is the same for those under senior in home care who might be feeling stressed about their health and life and need a change of scenery and something that they can enjoy doing. While these senior adults won’t be doing any major lawn care or landscaping work, this exposure can still do wonders for their physical and mental well-being. Gardening provides a wonderful opportunity for just that!
Helps Them Get Exercise
Physical activity is essential for the body and is a big part of establishing a healthy routine for senior adults. This is especially true for those living in care facilities who might not be able to physically engage in normal exercises. Taking care of plants, watering, pruning, and tending to a few plants around them can be a perfect way for these adults to get some exercise. It will keep them moving and help with things like arthritis, and physical therapy, and also keep their bodies and minds healthy.
Gets Them Outside
A simple way to understand how gardening can help mental health is simply by getting seniors outside. A change of scenery can do wonders for mental health and sharpness. Giving senior adults a chance to be outside of their rooms or in senior living apartments, even for a short time, can really improve mental focus and mood. They can also enjoy the benefits of fresh air, vitamin D exposure, the sun, and a stronger connection to the world around the- something many seniors feel a lack of at times.
Allows Them to be Creative
Another benefit to outdoor activities such as gardening is senior adults can find it to be a great way to be creative. Working with plants such as bonsais teaches patience and creativity, which helps keep the mind active and sharp. General garden and plant care can also stimulate the creative centers of the brain by letting these individuals plan how to grow, prune, and care for the plants around them. Activities such as puzzles and coloring help with creativity, and so too can gardening.
Gives Them a Focus
Many senior adults enjoy outdoor activities and find gardening and related activities to be very relaxing and pleasant. They might not be doing major tree pruning and such, but they can help maintain the plants around their care facility by tending to the flowers and gardens that might be on site. Senior adults enjoy these kinds of activities because they give them a focus and something to direct their energy and thoughts to other than their physical health or what life in a care facility is like for them.
Lets Them be Independent
One of the biggest issues seniors have about getting in-home care or moving to an adult care center is the feeling of losing their independence and freedom. Letting them garden can be a wonderful way to give them some of that freedom and independence back. Giving them their own plants to care for, even in their own room, can do wonders for mood, mental focus, clarity, memory, and more. It gives them something to focus on and put their minds to that can be very rewarding.
Provides Them With Motivation
Senior adults who engage in gardening and similar activities also show greater motivation in other areas of their lives. They can be more willing to engage with others in regard to their health and general care. Gardening can motivate seniors to take care of themselves, do better with their physical therapy, be more open to medical care, and have an overall better mood and outlook on their lives. Seniors lacking the motivation to take care of themselves can often find it by taking care of plants around them.
Helps Them Lower Stress
One way to see how gardening can help mental health in senior adults is in the effect it has on their overall stress levels. It has been shown time and time again that gardening and being outdoors and interacting with nature, in general, can lower stress levels. Seniors often struggle with stress in their lives and need help dealing with the changes and obstacles they face in their later years. Gardening provides a safe and effective outlet for them to deal with stressors in their lives.
Gives Them a Better Environment
A common concern daily members have when a loved one is in a care facility is the overall secluded environment they often end up in. When someone is confined to a bed or wheelchair or has trouble getting around, they can start to feel trapped and closed in. Bringing plants into their lives can drastically improve their environment and make it more inviting and healthy. And with a better living environment, their physical and their mental health will also begin to drastically improve.
Helps Them With Mental Focus
Memory can be a major area of concern for senior adults as the onset of conditions such as dementia are more likely. Gardening and taking care of plants can help improve memory by giving these individuals something they have to remember to do every day, several times a day. Remembering to watch the plants, when they last checked them, and knowing what to look for in the health of a plant can also help these senior adults take care of themselves by keeping their memory sharper.
Helps Them Fight Depression
Depression and other mental health issues are very common in seniors, especially those who have been moved to an adult care facility. It is a major concern for family members and the facility care team as well. Giving these seniors something to focus on, something to take care of, and something to be responsible for in a couple of plants can do wonders for boosting their mood. Seniors can feel joy and accomplishment when they see their plants grow and thrive under their care.
Gives Them a Routine
Understanding how gardening can help mental health in seniors comes down to realizing how important a schedule or routine is for some individuals. This can be particularly true in seniors fighting memory issues when the most basic of routines and actions have to be relearned every day. Gardening and plant care offer a routine that these individuals can follow and work on remembering and focusing on that are less stressful and impactful if they do forget steps now and then.
Helps Them Socialize
Humans in general are social creatures and we usually are happier and healthier when we are with others. Many seniors, however, end up isolated and feeling cut off when they are in a nursing home or care facility. Gardening can be a way for residents to get together and socialize and enjoy the company of others. This is just another example of how gardening can help the mental health of seniors by getting them around others and being active and socializing more than they would otherwise.
Lets Them Feel Accomplished
Gardening is a hobby many people enjoy because it gives them a feeling of great satisfaction, accomplishment, and pride in seeing their plants flourish and knowing it was their care and attention that made it possible. Senior adults desperately need this in their lives as they can often feel like they no longer have a purpose or can not be useful. Gardening lets them be responsible for another living thing without the overwhelming pressure of caring for an animal or another person.
Gives Them Time for Reflection
Many seniors once enjoyed gardening and working outdoors and with plants when they were younger. They may have been arborists or landscapers or had a beautiful garden of their own back home. Letting them work with plants again can offer a calm and peaceful time of reflection where they can recall beloved memories of all the times they worked with plants and took care of their garden in their lifetime. Even small-scale gardening projects can have this effect on senior adults.
Using the Knowledge of How Gardening Can Help Mental Health to Improve Lives
These are just some examples of how gardening can help mental health among seniors. Setting up a small garden area in a senior’s yard or having a gardening space on an assisted living facility’s property can do wonders for the physical and mental health of residents. It can be something as simple as calling in a local landscape lighting company and backyard landscape designer to make a safe and accessible space for senior adults to gather.
It might take some work to get set up but landscaping services and tree removal services can help create a space where seniors can easily gather to enjoy the many benefits of working outdoors, surrounded by nature, and with a range of plants. It is easy to start and even the smallest of changes can make a world of difference for senior adults today!