6 Health Benefits Gardening Can Provide Older Adults

May 15, 2020

The bounty of benefits of gardening for seniors may surprise you. From absorbing sunny vitamin D outdoors to the rewards of putting a homegrown bouquet on the table, there are a lot of physical, mental and spiritual health benefits of gardening for seniors.

Of course, there are plenty of benefits of gardening for seniors that have little to do with the final products. There’s even something called horticultural therapy with certified practitioners that uses plants and gardens to promote well-being. Because of the benefits of gardening on mental health, it’s often used in therapy programs for people of all ages, including seniors.

You don’t have to be an expert to recognize the positive effects of simply being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Here are six more benefits of gardening for seniors.

a senior man watering a bunch of white flowers

  • Relieves stress and anxiety

Studies have found that gardening can lower levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is necessary for sustaining body functions, but it is also known as “the stress hormone.” Gardening also increases the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that regulates mood and increases feelings of calmness and peace.

  • Exercise

Gardening is a low-impact physical activity that provides us with moderate aerobic exercise. There are health benefits of gardening for seniors in the simple acts of pulling weeds, reaching for various plants and tools, and twisting and bending as you plant. These types of actions will work new muscles in your body and help with strength, stamina and flexibility.

It’s a great option for many because we’re more likely to garden longer than other exercises like walking or biking. You may get so engrossed in your work that you don’t even realize you’re breaking a sweat.

a pair of older hands planting a flower in a garden

  • Fortifies the immune system

Digging in the dirt can be messy. But as it turns out, a little dirt might actually help you. Studies have shown that Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria found in garden soil, can improve your immune system. This “friendly” bacteria has been known to alleviate symptoms of allergies, asthma, psoriasis and even depression.

  • Vitamin D booster

A 2014 Italian study found that exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. Not only is it a good mood regulator, but vitamin D also aids calcium absorption, bone health, and your immune system. But always remember to apply sunscreen to protect your skin, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

  • May reduce the risk of dementia

One study shows that gardening for older adults may lower the risk for dementia by as much as 36%. This could be because gardening requires the use of many critical functions, including dexterity and sensory awareness. By spending even a short amount of time gardening on a regular basis, seniors can maintain their motor skills and improve their endurance and strength.

an elderly couple planting flowers outside

  • The Community Garden and the Gardening Community

Some senior living communities, like Lexington Square, support gardening for seniors and all the inherent benefits. Though tending a garden among friends can add an extra layer of enjoyment, social distancing puts a damper on the community garden concept. The good news is, there are countless online gardening communities, where hobbyists and experts chat and share tips about every category of their interest. It’s a great place to learn from others and share your own successes. These friendly forums are often just as personally nurturing as a well-tended garden itself.

Learn more about opportunities for wellness activities at Lexington Square.

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