“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – English poet Alfred Austin.
There’s something divinely magical about seeing something grow from nothing. And there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you had a hand in bringing it to life. For anyone who has ever tried their hand at gardening, the positive effects of the practice are overwhelmingly apparent from the moment you feel the warm sun on your skin and dig your hands into the cool, damp earth. And when that first sprout bursts forth from the soil or a tiny cherry tomato appears on a vine, the feeling is almost euphoric.
For seniors, gardening can be especially therapeutic and provides a host of benefits that range from very tangible improvements in physical health to positive bearings on mental health and an increase in feelings of hopefulness and happiness. At St. Martin’s in the Pines, seniors regularly have access to gardening initiatives where they do everything from digging and planting seeds to watering and harvesting vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Raised beds make joining in on the fun comfortable and accessible for all.
1. Physical Benefits
When it comes to gardening, physical benefits abound. While it may not be as strenuous as walking, swimming, or biking, gardening is a form of physical activity that can contribute to overall health and positive aging. The practice contributes to better mobility and flexibility, and time spent outside increases much-needed Vitamin D levels in seniors. In addition, studies have shown that exposure to Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria found in garden soil can improve immune systems by alleviating symptoms of allergies, asthma, and psoriasis.
2. Mental Benefits
Many people head outdoors to clear their minds or reset with a breath of fresh air. For seniors, the mental benefits of gardening can do exactly that and more. Creating a regular routine to water, weed, or check on plants can help seniors maintain a sense of purpose, and the duty of remembering to care for their garden can help guard against memory loss and dementia. Additionally, using motor skills, practicing dexterity, and sensory awareness can also reduce the risk of dementia. Seniors who take on gardening as a group activity also benefit from the social time and relationships they build through working toward a common goal together.
3. Emotional Benefits
A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening can lower cortisol levels in the brain. Since cortisol is better known as the stress hormone, it’s fitting that gardening does a world of good to calm stress and anxiety. Meanwhile, exposure to sunlight while gardening causes serotonin levels in the brain to increase, making seniors feel happier and more centered. On a more cerebral level, watching something take root and blossom can give seniors a feeling of growth, connection, and hopefulness.
The compassionate care team at St. Martin’s in the Pines seeks to help you or your senior loved one bloom where planted. For more information about our resident-centered, community-driven approach to senior living, please click here today to schedule a tour.