How Seniors Can Plant Seeds of Better Health
Imagine waking up in the morning, making your cup of coffee and walking out to your community garden and checking on your herbs and plants. You reach for the water hose and there’s a ladybug on the faucet! While watering your plants you see a small little green bulb growing from one of your plants. The tomatoes are beginning to fruit! What joy!
This scenario of stepping out and playing in the garden and discovering new things in a natural environment may be precisely what the senior in your life is missing.
There are many benefits to working in the garden and some scientists are even trying to revive an ancient concept known as horticulture as therapy. Horticulture therapy, at its core, is the use of plants and gardening activities for therapeutic or rehabilitation purposes.
How Can Gardening Help Seniors?
Horticulture therapy relies on our evolution through the natural environment. We have deep seated primal physiologic and psychological positive reactions to natural environments. So, by placing ourselves in and interacting with natural environments, we can use these positive brain states to help regulate and elevate our moods.
I know here in Houston, we would certainly enjoy the babbling of a brook over highway traffic any day!
Spending time in the garden means spending time outdoors and getting some sunshine. Sunshine is always great to help alleviate moods and boost our vitamin D levels. There have also been some studies that show that gardeners enjoy lower levels of cortisol.1 Cortisol is referred to as a “stress hormone” and is often responsible for increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Not only can gardening help to lower our stress hormones, but it has also been found to increase the release of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is one of our brain’s chemical messengers that transmits signals between nerves. It’s also known as one of the “happy neurotransmitters” for its part in mitigating the symptoms of depression. Moreover, one study showed that those that gardened daily predicted a 36% less risk of developing dementia.2 So just by working in the garden a few minutes each day, we could help lower stress and mitigate symptoms of depression and dementia—a win-win in our book!
Exercise and Sunshine
We mentioned the usual fact that working in the garden means stepping outside and getting some sunshine, but there is also a lot of exercise that comes with any level of gardening. The gathering of supplies, getting up and down, walking to and from, stretching to reach plants, moving heavy bags of soil, and all of the other movements that are required for gardening can help keep seniors active. This kind of activity is a bit more rewarding than just exercising in place. Add on top of that the maintenance of weeding, raking, and even daily watering can really start to help burn away some of last night’s ice cream calories. Aside from helping burn some extra calories, there are cases to be made that gardening helps maintain dexterity and endurance. Using shears to delicately prune a plant or using a small shovel in just the right way can help keep our hands nimble and precise.
We know that taking care of a loved one is hard work and the day simply doesn’t have enough hours to take care of everything. That’s why here at Christian Companions we thrive in getting you the help you and your loved one deserves. Our Houston based, certified and compassionate caregivers are here and ready to assist the senior in your life so they can age in place with grace. Please reach out to us today to find the right help for the senior in your life.
1. Van Den Berg, A. E., & Custers, M. H. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal of health psychology, 16(1), 3–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105310365577
2. Simons, L. A., Simons, J., McCallum, J., & Friedlander, Y. (2006). Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly. The Medical journal of Australia, 184(2), 68–70. https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00120.x <a href="https://www.freepik.com/photos/vegetable-garden">Vegetable garden photo created by gpointstudio - www.freepik.com</a>