Many of us love to spend time outside in our gardens, often reflecting that particularly as we get older it helps keep us fit, agile and keeps the mind occupied. There are a number of positive benefits linked to gardening that many may not be aware of.
With this article we hope to rekindle the love of gardening that some of or more mature readers may have previously enjoyed but brought to a sudden halt because of the onset of a number of bone and joint disorders (for example osteoporosis or arthritis), disabilities from stroke and the ageing process in general – with the mind being willing, but the flesh being weak.
There are ways and means to get back into the gardening the game without the work being so back breaking or setting off a number of painful symptoms in your body. With this article we’ll be looking at some of safer ways to garden as you age as well as why it’s good for you to keep at it.
- Minimise the amount of bending and any unnecessary overexertion through raising those garden beds:
- Limber up before hand: warm up exercises to prepare your body
- Protect yourself : sunscreen and insect repellent (especially as we welcome summer to London)
- Invest in the right tools to ease the gardening process
- Understand the correct ways of handling tools – the way in which you hold a pruning scissors – will allow for easier pruning or make the job at hand that much more strenuous
- Depending on the amount of time you spend in the garden – pace yourself.
- Wear the right attire for the job, if you are digging or moving something heavy wear a pair of boots, consider investing in a good pair of overalls to avoid scratches or irritations
We published an article last year on the diligent gardener with reference to finding the balance when gardening providing a few guidelines preventing you from overexerting your body by following a few simple guidelines. As a recreational activity especially as you age, light gardening can really get your blood circulation going and if done in moderation you stand the chance of living a longer healthier life.
The health benefits of gardening:
There are many health benefits to gardening, apart from getting outside and enjoying some fresh air!
- Gardening is said to be a prime way to get a moderate to intense workout and with the above mentioned guidelines, light gardening is possible as well – getting you that moderate exercise needed.
- Horticultural therapy is said to heal the mind, body and soul, keeps your mind active as you plan ahead for the coming season(s).
- By undertaking physical gardening two three times a week you can keep fit and active – i.e. gardening is said to contribute towards your overall wellbeing.
- Baking, gardening and musical therapy are all said to contribute towards improving the symptoms of dementia.
- Getting stuck in the dirt improves your mental wellbeing – reducing stress and can be a social or solitary experience depending on what you would prefer it to be.
- Could aid the rehabilitation process, if you've been a victim of stroke or have been diagnosed with a life limiting conditions
- It keeps you nimble and flexible
- Growing your own fruit and veg gives you better, fresher produce then from the supermarkets, and it could mean saving on all those organic purchases – so it’s easy on the wallet too!
Gardening is a reconised therapy for many older people, for example at Amherst House care home in Horley, Surrey they include gardening activities into their residents weekly routine all in the name of improving their quality of life and ensuring that they get the needed amount of gentle exercise. It seems that this is something that Gracewell’s residents are quite fond of as it’s becoming a more and more of a popular activity in the various care homes.
Gardening activity at Amherst House
Describing their plans for the current season the team at Amherst explain
In the raised beds at Amherst we will be planting runner beans, lettuce and spinach. Amongst the runner beans we will plant sweet peas as these will bring bees to pollinate the plant as well as being decorative.
Nasturtiums will also be planted amongst the vegetables to draw aphids away from them. Nasturtium flowers and seeds can be added to salads as the seeds add a peppery flavour and the flowers with their bright orange colour, liven up a plain salad. There are good health benefits too as Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of Vitamin C and are a natural antibiotic. The gentle antibiotic in the leaves makes them useful for treating minor colds and eating a couple of leaves three times a day offers a natural way to fight off a cold.
I am very keen on companion planting, it helps reduce pests in a more natural and sustainable way, and even if you are not totally organic making some efforts to reduce the use of chemicals in the gardens is a great idea. Nasturtiums as mentioned by the team at Amherst are edible, and many people do not realise this, they also make a great shot of colour in your summer bedding displays.
Great tip from Sam Vatcher, events and activities co-ordinator at Amherst House:
When my father used to plant leeks he would make a hole big enough to take the inside of a toilet role, put this in the hole fill with water before adding the leek plant as this helped stop mud getting into the plant.
As the saying goes – if you plant something and you water it, something’s going to grow – the biggest reward would be reaping the fruits of your labour… Imagine being able to actually live off the land or being able to see the process of those rose seeds that you planted transforming into a fully-fledged rose bush – now there’s something that many people dream of and with a bit of dedication can actually achieve. So with a little bit of care and attention there is nothing to stop the more mature gardeners from keeping on gardening!