It’s important for seniors to stay active and continue enjoying their hobbies – even after moving into a retirement community. For seniors, gardening can extend far beyond a simple hobby – it can improve the health and happiness of seniors as well. Here at Bethesda, our residents can still reap the benefits of gardening and spending time outdoors.

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

  • Physical Activity – Activities like planting, pruning and watering give seniors a moderate amount of daily exercise that can improve their flexibility, coordination, muscular and cardiovascular health, and general physical wellness.
  • Pain Reduction – Staying busy in the garden can keep seniors’ minds off of their physical aches and pains, as well as their troubles. For seniors, being in nature – and having something constructive to do with their time – helps reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Socialization – Gardening creates necessary social opportunities for both those who tend to the beautiful plants and the people who enjoy their beauty.

A Passion for Planting

When Bethesda Orchard resident Emil Beier decided eight years ago to move from his longtime home into an independent living community in Webster Groves, the only thing he was reluctant to leave behind was his lush backyard garden. For him, planting and pruning was not only exercise – it was a passion.

“Fortunately, the staff at Bethesda Orchard was looking for someone to take care of the garden here when I moved in,” Emil said, “so they put me in charge. I was thrilled to be able to enjoy the best of both worlds: a carefree lifestyle in which I don’t have to do all the little things I don’t like to do – while still being able to have a garden to work in.”

While the responsibility of maintaining a lush, lavish garden might be more than some seniors want to take on, Emil said gardeners are always looking for extra hands to help out. If a senior doesn’t have his or her own garden, they can often find a park, a business or a friend with a garden who would be thrilled to have some volunteer assistance. For example, in addition to his work on the grounds at Bethesda Orchard, Emil volunteers one day a week at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“Even if people don’t want to do much work, gardens are good for you because they’re gathering places,” Emil said. “You can get out in the fresh air and the sunshine and enjoy the beauty of nature.”

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Some seniors may find themselves facing the struggles of aging, such as Arthritis, when trying to keep up with their old hobbies. By getting creative, seniors can still enjoy the benefits of gardening.

Emil recommends that seniors who have trouble bending over or getting on their hands and knees practice vertical gardening. By growing plants on a trellis or in elevated pots, they can garden in a physically comfortable position.

“I know that sometimes I feel stiff or sore and I don’t think I want to get out in the garden,” said Emil. “But, once I get started, I begin to feel better and I’m glad I did the work. You just have to be sure not to do more than your body tells you that you can handle.”

It is also recommended that senior gardeners work in short sessions (of about one hour) several times a week as opposed to a full day. Be sure to use sunscreen, wear a hat and eye protection, and stay hydrated with plenty of water.

Gardening Safety Tips for Seniors

While gardening can be great for the mental and physical health of seniors, there are some safety tips to consider before heading for the shed to get their rake and shovel.

  • Don’t overdo it. People are more likely to have an accident when they’re tired and aren’t paying attention. Be careful about overexposure. Heat-related illnesses can sneak up on you.
  • Do a safety check before you start working on your garden. Look for trip hazards such as loose steps, and exposed roots. Make sure garden hoses and extension cords are put away. Remember, sloped ground can be hazardous. Also, avoid ladders and standing on things like overturned buckets to reach tree branches.
  • Carry a cell phone with you whenever possible so you have a way to call for help if there is a problem.

At Bethesda, we know that staying interested in hobbies keeps seniors active and happy. Visit our blog to discover more beneficial activities for seniors this summer.