April is National Garden Month, and there’s no better time to get outside, enjoy the warmer weather and start planning a beautiful garden to enjoy throughout the spring and summer!
Whether you want to grow fruits and veggies or create a unique oasis of colorful flowers, gardens provide a calming escape that connects our senses to the therapeutic qualities of nature. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes with watching your plants grow from seedlings and reach their full-grown potential.
Gardening for seniors can positively impact mental and physical health; studies show that older adults who consistently spend time in their home gardens can reduce their overall risk for osteoporosis, depression, heart disease and other health issues.
Astral at Franklin understands the importance of getting outside to improve mental and physical wellness. Every day, our senior living community in Franklin, Indiana, promotes an active lifestyle, and we’re constantly implementing activities that focus on the five areas of self and wellbeing – health, endurance, knowledge, wisdom and happiness.
Below, we are sharing five benefits of gardening for seniors:
Spending time in the sun means you’re absorbing Vitamin D, which can help you defend yourself against colds and the flu. But that’s not all – you might not even realize there’s another immune-strengthening aid hiding in the soil!
Not everyone enjoys digging their hands in the dirt when gardening, but did you know that getting a little bit of soil under your nails can actually provide health benefits? It sounds far-fetched, but a healthy bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, commonly found in garden soil, has been found to ease symptoms of many immune-based health issues, like:
This harmless (but beneficial!) bacteria tethers itself to the skin, and when you accidentally breathe in loose soil, it makes its way into the respiratory system. In addition, research has suggested that garden soil contains microbes that can help protect our immune systems against allergic diseases.
In other words, diverse microbiomes are found in soil that protect and guard our immune systems!
A Dutch experiment put the stress-relieving effects of gardening for seniors to the test by assigning a challenging task to 30 participants. After completing the assignment, which was meant to raise the stress levels of each participant, half of the group was assigned to partake in indoor reading or outdoor gardening. Researchers found that reading and gardening both decreased stress levels, but the decreases were more substantial in the outdoor gardening group.
The gardeners reported better moods than the reading group and showed lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone that controls stress, and higher levels of cortisol have been associated with health problems like obesity, cognitive decline and heart disease.
Gardening provides a calming effect thanks to the simple act of implementing your own positive changes in the environment.
There have been several studies that have linked gardening for seniors to lower risks of dementia, but a particular long-term study went above and beyond with their research styles to find the most realistic conclusion.
The study followed 3,000 older adults for 16 years, tracking lifestyle factors and any dementia-related incidents. The researchers found that daily gardening was the most significant risk reducer for dementia by 36%. A similar study estimated that the risk reduction might even be as high as 47%.
Gardening utilizes different mental and physical functions that can be altered by the progression of dementia. Common symptoms include the decline of dexterity, problem-solving, sensory abilities and even mobility. However, when you participate in gardening on a regular basis, you’re utilizing all of these functions and keeping your mind and body sharp!
While it isn’t the most intense workout, spending time in the garden does help you stay active and keep moving. When you spend time gardening each day, you’re flexing your motor skills, improving your flexibility and enhancing your strength.
Physical activity is crucial for healthy aging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults over the age of 65 need at least 150 minutes a week of exercise, which can be easily broken down into 30 minutes a day for five days.
Depending on the types of vegetation in your garden, you might spend most of your time crouching or squatting down to carefully plant seeds, bending over to make sure each plant gets the proper amount of water or walking around to pick fruits and vegetables.
Spending time in nature provides a healing effect, and being outside can do wonders for our mental and physical wellness. The sun not only helps boost your immune system, but can increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Serotonin is a chemical produced by the brain, often called the “feel good” chemical, which improves mood and helps us feel calm. A lack of serotonin has been associated with a higher risk for depression and anxiety; many scientists also believe that a serotonin deficiency caused by a lack of sunshine can lead to seasonal depression.
Astral at Franklin encourages older adults to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, and gardening for seniors is one way to do this. Our senior living community in Franklin, Indiana, is dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents by offering exceptional wellness opportunities and enrichment programs.
If you’re ready to learn more about our community, call us at 463-255-5057 or contact us online to connect with one of our senior living experts.
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