Green thumbs good for old hands
Gardening can improve mental health, physical well-being, and improve the lives of the elderly in many ways, reports a recent study of elderly gardeners in Australia.
Being connected with nature is well known to have positive effects. Many research papers have been written on the benefits of seeing plants and interacting with the outdoors. Just going outside can reduce stress, improve attention, create better mental health, and increase longevity. (Grinde, 2009)
Many elderly people, once they have retired from the formal workforce, begin to take up other projects to keep themselves active. One of the most popular is gardening. A study by Joanne Adams has shown that this is not just a good idea to keep busy – it is also good for the mental and physical health of elderly people.
As we have mentioned previously, learning new things is an important way to stave off mental disease later in life. This study found that gardeners, even those that had been gardening for many years, were still learning. Every garden had its quirks, every new plant was a new challenge, and every season brought different weather. This kept them mentally active, a crucial part of physical well-being.
The gardening also kept them physically active – many of the gardeners said that they would not be spending as much time outside the house if they were not weeding, watering, and caring for their gardens. Social interactions were also a big part of gardening. Discussing the garden with friends, showing it off to family, and talking about it with interested bystanders all enriched their social lives.
Finally, gardens were also a key motivating force. They helped to relieve stress, but also were a driving force in helping people to get well. The gardeners wanted to get better so that they could tend their gardens. Considering that strong motivation can influence the amount of time it takes to recover from injury, this could have a large impact on their future health and mobility.
Images: les Jardiniers du Possible