If you are searching for a truly healthy, strong, and personal connection and relationship with a senior parent or elderly individual, then it’s time to consider getting down and dirty, throwing on some gardening boots, and heading outside!
Regardless of your age, or the age of your parents, gardening and being outdoors is one of the absolute best activities. Not only does gardening and being outside help to stimulate all of your physical senses, it also helps build a connection with Mother Nature and your friends and family. There’s also a prize at the end: beautiful, fragrant flowers and vine-ripened, juicy tomatoes and other fruits and veggies! Regardless if your senior parent suffers from a mental illness such as Dementia or not, being outdoors and gardening can be extremely restorative to everyone involved. According to many different therapists, counselors, and others who help seniors with day to day tasks, gardening is one of the top choices for physical activities to help build a strong relationship with your elderly loved ones.
While gardening offers a great escape for both young and older bodies, it also is an excellent way to get some moderate aerobic exercise in, which helps aging bodies grow stronger and maintain their health and strength. Less calories, more flexibility, and a healthier body all contribute to overall well-being! According to the National Gardening Association, over 3/4 of all seniors over the age of 55 enjoyed an outdoor gardening activity this past year.
Gardening can be great for all ages, however, there is no denying that all of the squatting, bending over, kneeling, cutting, and everything else that goes into gardening can start to become a struggle over time. Other factors also come in to play such as the weather, heat, the bugs around your home – these all contribute to gardening becoming more of a challenge as you age.
Fortunately, there are different solutions for taking gardening’s harder physical tasks and transforming them into easier to do activities. For example, I knew of an elderly neighbor that would position all of the plants, fruits, and veggies on her back patio, in order to be able to use her wheelchair to easily maneuver around the area without having to go in and out of the yard. It’s also extremely vital to take preventative care of your body when it comes to the outdoors, by applying generous amounts of sunscreen and bug spray before you go out to the garden. It’s also important to put on a chap stick with an SPF rating, because your lips are very sensitive to the sun’s rays as well!
One of the best things to incorporate into a garden to help a senior parent physically are raised garden beds. These are generally wooden structures, anywhere from a foot to 3-4 feet off the ground, that contain raised dirt so bending over, kneeling, and squatting isn’t necessary. This allows anyone to stay standing and work on the garden, without fear of injuring themselves potentially. It’s also important to not forget to drink water and stay hydrated while outdoors. Even when the weather is nice, dehydration can still be a problem that you have to be careful of, so bringing a water bottle or two out to the yard is never a bad idea.