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Reaping what you sow: The benefits of gardening

submitted by Julianne Hart, The Birches at Newtown Personal Care and Memory Care, www.thebirchesatnewtown.com.

Ah, it’s springtime! Time to head outdoors, embrace the sunshine and smell the sweet aroma of freshly bloomed flowers.

While some seniors are eager to hit the golf course or take a stroll around the neighborhood, others can find pleasure in a therapeutic pastime like gardening. This is especially true for seniors experiencing cognitive or physical decline.

Gardeners can experience a holistic reconnection to nature and a rewarding sense of accomplishment from nurturing a seed into a beautiful flower or delicious vegetable.

Many people believe the act of gardening can cultivate a better quality of life, and here’s how:

  • Engages the mind. The step-by-step thinking process of planting engages the mind – keeping it active and focused on the task at hand. The enhanced mental stimulation may help seniors living with dementia recall positive memories.
  • Helps keep the body robust. Gardening is a low-impact form of exercise that helps increase flexibility, blood flow (especially to the brain), oxygenation, endurance and strength. When gardening therapy is experienced outdoors, healthy sun exposure can increase vitamin D production.
  • Rejuvenates the spirit. Gardening induces the feelings of calm and relaxation. It also encourages social interactions and increases self-esteem. Research shows activities stimulating the senses give seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia the opportunity to reconnect with positive emotions they may no longer experience.  

There’s more to gardening than bouquets and produce; its versatility can meet the lifestyle needs of any participant – even someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can reap the benefits.

Raised gardening beds and ergonomic tools also help seniors have a more pleasurable experience tending plants. Even caring for a small container plant can liven up the day.

However gardening is enjoyed, just get out there (or stay inside) and dig in!