Garden Modification for Seniors: Planting Joy and Growing Love

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Elderly man enjoys cucumbers thanks to Garden Modifications for seniors

garden modification for seniors

Many of us have grown up with some form of a garden in our life. In fact, over 75% of Americans garden each year in some way! However, as our parents get older, their garden will require unique changes. For many of our aging loved ones, gardens hold a special place in their heart. Therefore, garden modification for seniors is a key step in preparing your loved one’s home well.

Sometimes, when preparing our loved one’s home with aging modifications, it can be easy to ignore the outside of their home. This is understandable since access to critical places like bathrooms and kitchens is vital! However, creating a safe space for them to garden could be beneficial to you both in ways you may not even realize!

Gardening activities for seniors have been shown to improve emotional, physical, and cognitive health. Whether your loved one is facing dementia or is struggling to add movement to their day, gardening could support them in their aging journey.

Senior couple gardening together thanks to garden modifications for seniors

What is the evidence to support the use of therapeutic gardens for the elderly?

While many of us may see yard care and gardening as a chore, it can be very therapeutic! Specifically, experts have found that gardening can be a therapeutic technique for many aging loved ones.

Gardens can offer physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits to your loved one. From pain relief from fresh air to making new friends, gardening might be the perfect hobby to support your loved one in their aging process. 

Doctors, psychologists, and aging experts agree that enjoyable hobbies that promote movement outside have overall benefits on a senior adult. And gardening is often encouraged as one of these healthy hobbies!  Therefore, let’s unpack the various benefits of gardens and some tips for garden modification for seniors.

elderly man enjoys sunshine with his garden modifications

How does gardening help with dementia?

One interesting benefit of garden modifications for seniors is the potential to support your loved one’s dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, gardening can significantly help your loved one’s physical and cognitive health.

If your loved one lives with a form of dementia, you may have noticed some of their senses dull. For example, familiar scents and or visuals may become less recognizable to them. However, gardening offers many smells, sounds, and visuals that can help “awaken” some of their senses. Like carefully working out a muscle, as your loved one spends time in a garden, they can lightly challenge their senses.

Furthermore, gardening activities for seniors can help improve balance and muscular strength. As anyone ages, balance and strength can become more difficult. Sadly, this is especially true of our loved ones with forms of dementia. However, gardening can be a light, fun activity for your aging adult while still carefully challenging their body.

Finally, some families find a garden to be therapeutic for their loved one with dementia because of the mood-elevating effects it can have. Being outside in the sun surrounded by plants will usually decrease overall agitation or stress. Moreover, many adults with dementia enjoy having their own plants to take care of, allowing them to be the caretaker of something.

From increased attention spans to decreased isolation, gardens can have dozens of benefits for your loved one with dementia. However, you know your parent and their condition best. So, choose a gardening project that suits them and their needs! This could range from a full-yard garden to a small container garden on their patio.

Garden modification for seniors allows elderly women to garden in backyard with daughter

Social Gardening

Gardening doesn’t have to be a solo project.  Above all, older adults benefit from social connections and support. Therefore, gardening can be a creative way of getting them involved in their community and engaging with others!

Consider helping your loved one connect with a local community garden. This can provide new social opportunities for them while keeping them engaged in something they love. Check to see if there’s a garden club in your loved one’s community. Maybe attend a few meetings to help them get connected with their neighbors!

Likewise, perhaps you can even jump in for some quality time together outside. Consider gardening with your loved one! You can even make it a family or multi-generational activity. For example, ask younger family members or neighbors to swing by regularly to help them with any heavy lifting or other strenuous yard work. 

Senior woman planting flowers in her sunny garden with her garden modifications for seniors

What are the physical benefits of gardening?

While gardening may seem like a relaxing activity, we over forget how physical it can be. In fact, many medical studies identify gardening as a great form of exercise that includes movement, muscle-strengthening, and balance. All are things our aging adults should include in their daily routines when possible.

As a result, gardening could be a natural, enjoyable way for your parent to stay motivated physically. However, not all types of gardening will be accessible or safe for your loved one. Of course, the goal is to add healthy, fun movement to your loved one’s life, not overly exert them and cause injury.

Consequently, some of the more grueling aspects of gardening might not be an appropriate fit for your loved one. Some movements like bending, lifting, squatting, and kneeling can be problematic for golden-year gardeners. Of course, every aging adult’s physical abilities differ. However, there are still ways to adapt this healthy hobby to suit your loved one’s physical needs!

Vertical Gardening as a garden modification for seniors

How can I make gardening easier for the elderly?

Not all gardens are created equal, with some yards being easier to navigate than others. In fact, some traditional gardens may be physically prohibitive for older adults. But there are adaptive options! There are simple garden modifications for seniors you can make to help ease the stress of this activity for your loved one.

Vertical Gardening:

Is bending or kneeling not an option for your loved one? Well, vertical gardening might be a great adaptive solution. Vertical gardening has become a popular garden modification for seniors. This type of gardening focuses on plants that grow up and therefore involve less back strain, bending, and kneeling. Usually, these plants are vining plants that use cages, trellises, walls, and other structures to grow upwards on. Additionally, several products can elevate your loved one’s garden, like hanging baskets, vertical planting ladders, and more.

Moreover, if space is limited, vertical gardening uses outdoor space more efficiently or even happens without a lawn. Some aging adults can even create a vertical garden on their apartment patio! Below are some plants that work best for vertical gardening:

  • Annual herbs (basil, parsley, etc.)
  • Vining cucumbers
  • Vining tomato plants
  • Ferns
  • Certain annual flowering vines (morning glory, hummingbird vine, etc.)
  • Certain annual flowers (pansies, petunias, begonias)

Raised Beds:

Similar to vertical gardening, raised planting beds will elevate the height of your loved one’s garden experience. Consequently, this will decrease the amount of bending and squatting required of a loved one. 

These raised plots are a garden modification for seniors that elevate the beds, usually about 30 inches off the ground. Specifically, they are typically built with pathways to all parts of the raised bed and easy access to the center. 

Likewise, raised flower beds can be a successful gardening technique for loved ones in wheelchairs too. Consider creating wide, accessible pathways between beds for easy movement. 

Gardening tools for the elderly:

Suppose your loved one is comfortable in a more traditional garden. In that case, there are still many products to make this experience more accessible to them! Below are some ideas and products designed for garden modification for seniors:

  • Set up a potting bench for your loved one, so they have a dedicated area for gardening. Ensure that soil and other heavier items are stored at waist height, avoiding any heavy lifting needs.
  • Invest in a gardening seat for the elderly or padded kneeler so your loved one can easily plant flowers in beds along with their property.
  • If your loved one struggles to grip their gardening tools, wrap a thick layer of foam around each handle. Or consider investing in ergonomic gardening tools.
  • Look into extendable tools that will limit the amount of reaching and stretching needed.
  • Make sure your loved one has access to a cart or wheelbarrow so they can transport plants and gardening supplies without hassle.
A happy elderly woman in tends to her flowers in a wheelchair-accessible garden modification for seniors

What are ways I can make gardening safer for them?

As you prepare your loved one’s outside space, garden modifications for seniors should also consider safety. Making their garden accessible is a wonderful and caring first step. Second, talk with them about some safety tips before getting out in the yard. Below are some tips for gardening safety:

Sun and Heat Protection:

Keep your loved one protected from the heat and sun! Talk with your loved one about scheduling their gardening activities in the morning to avoid the midday heat. 

Additionally, leave cans of sunscreen around your loved one’s home so they can apply it regularly. Moreover, make sure they have lightweight, long-sleeved gardening gear to wear. This will protect their arms and legs from sunburns and also help prevent scratches as well. 

Finally, some families find it helpful to adopt more helpful garden designs for the elderly. Meaning, there are some simple ways to set up your loved one’s garden to promote safety. For instance, maybe set up a bench somewhere shady in your loved one’s garden. This will encourage them to take breaks while they enjoy the fruits of their labor! Or some families even opt for strategically placed shade trees to help protect their loved one as they garden.

Hydration:

Water intake is important during any physical activity, especially when that activity is outside. Therefore, make sure your loved one has a water bottle they can keep with them while they’re working in the garden. Consider carving out some space for it by the door, so they always remember to grab water! Or maybe invest in an inexpensive outdoor mini-fridge so that water is always nearby.

Easy Projects:

As we know, sometimes gardening projects can quickly become more complicated than we expect. As a result, it is helpful to stay in good communication with your loved one about their garden. Are there chores in their garden that they are struggling with and could use some help? Are they feeling a little tired and might need some help with seasonal weeding?

 

Moreover, help your parent pick out some low-maintenance plants for their garden. Heartier plants and flowers will allow them to take breaks throughout the week without worrying about their plants!

hiring help for lawn care as a garden modification for seniors

Lawn Care

When considering a garden or yard, most older adults struggle with lawn care. Understandably, this work can be physically taxing and can take hours to complete, leaving your loved one in the sun for far too long. Therefore, minimizing your loved one’s workload can help them enjoy gardening without too much strenuous labor. Consider some of these solutions for simpler lawn care:

  • Install an automatic sprinkler system installed to make lawn watering easier.
  • Hire a landscaping service to help your loved one do heavy-duty maintenance. Consider having them stop by regularly to mow the lawn and trim any trees or hedges that are getting unruly.
  • Replace your loved one’s garden with some evergreen ground cover, flower beds, or paths. This can lower the amount of overall maintenance your loved one has to do to keep their yard looking lush.
  • If your parent has memory problems or is prone to wandering, build a fence around their yard to help keep them in a safe area.
Garden modification for seniors allows for multi-generational care

As Your Love Grows, so do we

We understand that as you prepare your loved one’s home, there can be a lot to consider. From the kitchen to the garden, you might feel like you have your hands full! However, we want to support you as you work hard to create a wonderful home for your aging adult. Connect with us to learn more about the benefits of gardening and how to best adapt this hobby to your loved one’s home.

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Gardening can be relaxing!

Gardening can be an excellent way for older adults to pass the time, but it is not without its challenges. If you’re struggling to get your loved one set up to be successful in the garden, consider reaching out to our staff here at Beverly’s Daughter for help. We will contact you within 48 hours with a customized plan of action for supporting your loved one. Aging doesn’t have to be a pain – let us help your loved one live their best life well into their golden years.

Garden modifications that benefit your loved one

The home is the center of any family. And sometimes the aging process requires home changes for everyone. We want to make sure you and your loved one are supported through these changes. At Beverly’s Daughter, we are here to help you create a plan for care and find creative solutions for you both. 

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