7 therapeutic benefits of gardening for older adults

Horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. In recent decades it has been used as a treatment to promote people's physical, mental and emotional well-being. In the case of older adults, the therapeutic benefits of gardening are becoming increasingly apparent.

That is why some specialists recommend its implementation. The main objectives are to extend the autonomy and independence of older adults, promote their participation and social interaction, as well as develop and maintain the feeling of general well-being.

Below are some therapeutic benefits of gardening that have been evidenced in older adults who practice it,

1. Development and maintenance of cognitive functions

Some of the cognitive functions are orientation, attention and memory. These tend to be affected with aging. That is why it is considered important to stimulate them during this stage of life.

Horticulture is ideal for their preservation, since it integrates cognitive stimulation activities. Further, works the reminiscence of one's own memories around childhood. Well, it is likely that many older adults have had direct contact with nature.

For its part, it helps the elderly not to lose their temporal orientation, by experiencing the seasons of the year in a more immediate way.

Cognitive decline in old age is associated with age-specific changes, but these can be slowed down with natural therapies.

2. Promotes physical health and a sense of well-being

Horticulture encourages contact with nature, which has been considered a fundamental remedy to alleviate physical and mental ailments. Likewise, being an activity that takes place outdoors, it allows exposure to sunlight, which helps control sleep-wake cycles, supplies vitamin D to the body, and improves mood.

In addition, this activity reduces blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, slows the heart rate and promotes the production of endorphins, which gives a feeling of general well-being. Finally, the walk through the gardens and orchards encourages physical activity.

3. Promotes socialization

Carrying out and enjoying this activity motivates older adults to share knowledge and experiences with others and not only with people of the same generation, but also with young people and children.

On the other hand, there are therapeutic horticulture programs aimed at carrying out this activity with a group of people. This creates spaces to share with the other members of the group.

Discover: How loneliness affects the health of older adults

4. Promotes emotional well-being

Another of the therapeutic benefits of gardening is emotional health. Well mitigates depressive feelings and reduces stress and anxiety levels. In addition, it provides better management of frustration and anger.

5. Improves perceptual ability

Contact with nature and with the vegetation itself is an excellent source of sensory stimulation. Thus, horticulture is ideal for activating and developing the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste). We must remember that they tend to deteriorate as we reach old age.

6. Develop a sense of responsibility and independence

Horticulture allows the elderly to regain the role of caregiver, which encourages their sense of responsibility. In addition, it promotes achievement experiences, thus increasing their self-esteem and autonomy.

7. Encourage the establishment of healthy habits

Growing your own food encourages healthy eating habits. In addition, contact with nature sensitizes people and awakens ecological behaviors in them. In this way, the only beneficiaries are not the people who practice horticulture, but also the environment.

Also read: Health benefits of gardening

Tips to make activity easier for older adults

Horticulture improves nutrition too, since you can eat vegetables grown by your own hand.

Aging brings with it some mobility limitations and decreased energy. Therefore, some special considerations must be kept in mind so that older adults can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

This series of tips can be helpful to make your implementation enjoyable:

  • Gardens should be simple, easily accessible for people with canes or wheelchairs, and in a protected place (with fences or security barriers, for example).
  • It is preferable that plants are easy to grow and hardy to different climatic conditions.
  • Have seats or resting places around the orchard or garden.
  • Acquire tools that facilitate cultivation and paint them white so that they are easy to locate.
  • Choose plants that are pleasant to the touch and smell.
  • Create vertical gardens, using trellises. This will prevent the person from constantly bending over.
  • Have a bench. This also prevents them from squatting or squatting too much.
  • It is recommended do the activity during the first hours of the day or in the late afternoon. This avoids exposure to intense heat. It is also important that gardeners drink enough fluids.
  • Clothing should be loose and cool. Wearing a sun hat and gardening gloves is advised to protect your hands.
  • The older adult should carry a whistle or a cell phone to their activity to notify any emergency.

The therapeutic benefits of horticulture are almost immediate

The therapeutic benefits of gardening are manifold and not just limited to older adults. As it is also ideal for other stages of life. For example, this technique has been applied to children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or socialization problems.

Contact with nature is an excellent idea to work on your own well-being and on the development of skills that, for some, are difficult to acquire.