Warmer temperatures and sunny skies can tempt all of us outside. Many of us look forward to spring because of the gardening opportunities it brings.
If you’re a senior, there are several benefits to gardening for you. According to information from the University of Nevada, access to nature helps people recover more quickly from illness, reduces blood pressure and lowers stress. It can even improve quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients, giving them an outlet for reminiscing, emotional healing and activity.
While you’re being active outside, keep a few safety concerns in mind. These are from Patty Cassidy, a horticultural therapist and author of “The Illustrated Practical Guide to Gardening for Seniors,” featured in a publication from the National Wildlife Association.
Consider a vertical garden. Cultivate vines on trellises, fences or outside walls to reduce stooping. Plus, standing up takes pressure off your lower back and knees. These vertical plants also can be space savers. Make sure the height doesn’t extend beyond your arm’s reach.
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Try a raised planting bed. A rectangular raised planting bed with a chair or adjacent board for sitting could be the solution for those who choose to sit while gardening. Make the width about your arm’s length. That way, Cassidy says, you won’t lose balance reaching across and you’ll have easy access. Raised beds can be built with secondhand lumber or concrete blocks. Or there are several on the market, from plastic to wooden, metal or even concrete.
Keep it easy. Maybe years ago your yard was awash with colorful annuals, but now the thought of that much work is daunting. Convert some of that space to perennials and keep just a few small areas, or even one central spot, for the showoffs that need replacing. Or think about containers. They are easy ways to grow herbs or smaller vegetable plants such as tomatoes. Keep in mind how much sun and shade your porch gets or how big a pot you can manage when making your selections.
Start slowly. Just like going back to the gym after a few months of being MIA, digging in the dirt after being inside for the winter can be taxing. A few days before you go all in, do some gentle stretches such as arms, back and torso, suggests Paula Kramer, an occupational therapist at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Don’t stay in one spot; adjust every 20 to 30 minutes, she says, then rest for 10 minutes. Soaking arthritic hands in warm water before you put on gardening gloves could be beneficial, she says.
Know your terrain. When heading out into your yard, know where the dips and holes are under the grass. Watch where you’re walking.
Stay hydrated. Sunshine feels good, but you can become dehydrated before you know it. Keep some water in a nearby shady area.