Gardening can bring physical, mental, and even spiritual benefits to individuals of all ages. There’s just something about being outdoors on a sunny day and enjoying the feel and the smells of the natural world around us. However, as we age, gardening may be a little more challenging than it used to be. Joints get stiffer, making it harder to bend down and pull weeds or plant seeds. Arthritis can make it difficult to hold a trowel and dig in the dirt. Other health conditions can also affect a senior’s ability to enjoy gardening. Here are some tips to help seniors continue their favorite hobby.
1. Pace Yourself
One thing you can do in the garden is slow down. As we age, our stamina decreases, so our body needs more frequent breaks and shouldn’t be pushed as far. Pace yourself; work for a while and then relax for a while. When you’re tired, you are also more prone to accidents and injuries, regardless of your age. For example, seniors could experience dangerous falls when they are fatigued.
2. Dress the Part
When working outside, it’s important to protect your skin. To avoid overheating or sunburns, wear lightweight clothing that covers most of your skin. While it might seem counterintuitive to wear a long-sleeved shirt on a hot day, long sleeves that are lightweight and breathable can actually help keep you cool and protect your skin. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
You should also consider a big hat that can keep the sun off your face. We recommend wearing sunglasses and gardening gloves. You can also purchase cooling towels that can help you regulate your body temperature. Of course, your shoes are important too! Flip flops or sandals could cause you to trip easily. Look for closed-toed shoes that offer plenty of traction and comfort.
3. Pick the Right Time of Day
Gardening during the hottest part of the day is never a good idea! Part of the reason is because plants can absorb more water during the morning or evening because the sun can cause some of the water to evaporate during the hottest hours. Instead, try gardening in the early morning or early evening, which are much cooler but still provide needed sunlight. This can help seniors remain cooler while working outside, too.
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4. Use the Right Tools
Seniors should leverage the right tools to work smarter and not harder. Here are some tips to choosing the right tools:
- Look for gardening tools for seniors with long, brightly colored handles. These are easier to see, so you won’t lose your tools. Plus, longer handles allow you to reach further without bending over.
- Get a garden stool. Standing for long periods of time and constantly bending down can wear you out! A stool nearby can help you conserve energy as you work and have a good spot to rest when you need to.
- Choose strong, lightweight tools with long rubber handles. These can reduce stress on your joints.
- When planting, try seed tape. This tape is actually full of tiny seeds in a thin, degradable tape. To plant, you just unroll the tape and lay it over your soil. Then cover. Seed tape can reduce the time you spend planting and reduces small movements, which can be trickier as you get older.
5. Raise Your Garden
Have you thought about bringing your garden closer to you? Raised gardens for seniors allow access to your plants without kneeling or stooping. This helps protect aching knees and backs! Build or buy raised garden beds that are 2 to 3 feet tall. You can even install wide top boards to give you a built-in bench. Long narrow beds are best so that you can reach each inch of your garden. Install some trellises to keep plants growing upward and still within reach.
You may also need to consider an indoor garden, which could be easier to maintain.
6. Involve Others
Do you have a neighbor who's interested in gardening? Swap your gardening knowledge for help with heavy digging or lifting. Is there a family member who struggles to find you the perfect gift? Ask for a homemade gift certificate for pruning the roses or loosening the garden soil in the spring. Getting gardening help from others can help you maintain your garden without going overboard. Plus, gardening is a great way to spend quality time with others.
7. Choose the Right Plants
If gardening is becoming more difficult, you might want to swap out some of your high-maintenance plants for low-maintenance ones that will easily grow in your climate. You might also want to consider the uses and benefits of certain plants. For example, there are herbs that can help fight diseases, like ginkgo, basil, or ginseng.
8. Stay Hydrated
Gardening is hard work! In fact, it’s a great workout for older adults. That’s why it’s important to stay hydrated — especially on hot days. Bring a water bottle with you and make sure you drink from it! Dehydration in older adults can be very dangerous.
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9. Address Fall Hazards
There can be lots of fall hazards in your yard that could cause you to sustain severe injuries. These could include roots that are sticking up, branches scattered on the lawn, uneven spots on your back porch, etc. Address these safety hazards as soon as you can. You can reach out to a Caring Senior Service location near you for a FREE home safety assessment.
As you age, there’s no reason that you can’t enjoy gardening — you just may need to make a few adjustments to your gardening routine. We hope that, with these safe gardening tips, you can continue tending for your garden.