There’s a special feeling you get when exploring a garden. From the scent of fresh flowers and the warmth of the sun to the texture of soil between your fingers, it’s hard not to feel happiness in a garden. In the spring and summer months, many people enjoy spending time outdoors and feeling accomplished when growing their own flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. But gardening is more than a fun hobby; it can also provide mental, physical and emotional health benefits that enhance overall well-being, especially as we get older.
Since April is National Garden Month, why not stop to smell the roses — and perhaps plant a few of your own? Learn more about the benefits of gardening for seniors and how it can promote a happier, healthier retirement.
A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening can lower levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Increased levels of stress over time can cause depression, heart problems and cognitive decline. Just 30 minutes a day working in the garden can also increase the production of dopamine and serotonin. These two hormones are considered “happy” hormones, and high levels improve mood and encourage happiness, resulting in less stress.
Pulling weeds, planting seeds and digging in the dirt — all of which require the use of the hands and arms – can help seniors improve dexterity and hand-eye coordination, keeping the brain and body in sync. Gardening also stimulates the rest of the body by encouraging seniors to squat, bend, stretch, push and pull. This increases blood circulation and activates sedentary muscles, strengthening them to help aging adults maintain their mobility and physical health. Only a few hours of gardening each week provides seniors with a healthy, low-intensity workout. According to a recent study, tending to a garden regularly can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, colon cancer and osteoporosis.
Vitamin D, which the body manufactures when exposed to sunlight, is vital for senior health. Vitamin D helps regulate mood and supports a healthy immune system as well as bone health. Maintaining strong bones and a healthy immune system is a concern for many seniors, and sun exposure from gardening can help. While enjoying time outside in the sun does have its benefits, make sure to guard against overlong exposure to harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat while gardening.
Gardening has both physical and mental demands. It requires critical thinking and problem solving. This keeps an aging mind active, which in turn can reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Gardening also helps those already suffering from dementia, as it stimulates multiple senses at once, helping patients connect to their current physical environment.
Hawthorn Senior Living knows the benefits of gardening for older adults and has incorporated gardening into our daily enrichment programs. We offer several opportunities for you to cultivate your passion, whether you enjoy getting your hands in the soil or simply sharing your gardening knowhow.
While it may be too early in the year for most of our communities to start their community gardens, a few of our southern communities are already getting started.
Spring is in the air at Carolina Estates in Greensboro, North Carolina. This year, the community gardening club has a plan that will benefit all residents. Their goal is to plant and harvest vegetables and produce that can be used in the kitchen for sustainable, garden-to-table dining. The resident-led group will grow lettuce, tomatoes and peppers, as well as herbs, carrots and kale.
At The Oaks in Georgetown, Texas, residents are starting their own spring garden boxes, in which they can plant whatever flower, herb or vegetable they would like. Residents are also lending a hand in cleaning up various gardens around the community to prepare the landscape for spring gardening.
Creating and supporting an active retirement is a top priority at Hawthorn Senior Living. We look to enrich the lifestyles of our residents by providing plenty of opportunities to enjoy life – including through gardening. To learn more about how Hawthorn residents are living and thriving in retirement, find a community near you and schedule a tour today!