Gardening is a pastime that nurtures the body, mind and spirit. Sometimes as we age, however, the “body” makes digging in the dirt a bit more challenging. Seniors who enjoy gardening should know that there are several ways to make gardening easier.
Gardening Safety and Older Adults
1. Raise Your Beds
One of the main reasons gardening becomes troublesome for seniors is all the bending over and kneeling gardeners have to do. It can present a significant fall risk. Raised beds handily solve that problem. Added benefits include better soil drainage, less required space, and improved soil quality.
2. Reduce Your Lawn
Maintaining a grass lawn is a lot of work. Some older adults prefer to concentrate on perennials, herbs, or vegetables. A good solution, when you have a lawn that needs constant care, is to reduce the amount of grass that needs tending.
- herbaceous ground cover like creeping phlox
- low-growing herbs like wooly thyme
- woodier ground cover like juniper
Ms. Cassidy also suggests laying gravel or pretty stones. They can serve as a backdrop for a container garden. You could also plant a tree or install a low-maintenance water feature.
If that still sounds like too much work, consider hiring a neighborhood teenager or a lawn service to handle the grass. Your local agency on aging might have resources to help you safely hire some help.
3. Consider Vertical Gardening
When plants grow on poles and trellises, they’re much easier to tend. Cucumbers, beans, squash, and tomatoes all make good vertical garden plants. It also helps eliminate some of the walking involved in gardening for older adults who might have mobility problems.
4. Learn Proper Form
- Kneeling. For weeding, some gardeners use a kneeler stool. Others find them to be cumbersome. If you’re a ‘kneeler’, make sure you’re following proper ergonomic form so you don’t strain your ligaments. If you squat, keep your heels on the ground. If you kneel, try putting just one knee down.
- Pruning. A heavy-duty pruning session can leave wrists prone to tendinitis if you don’t use proper form. First, invest in some ergonomic pruners with comfortable handles. Next, keep your wrist straight, or in what’s called ‘neutral position’: not bent in either direction.
- Tools. Don’t use tools whose handles are too short. Stooping over may hurt your back. Buy lightweight, ergonomic tools. Keep in mind that not every tool marked “ergonomic” works for every person. The Arthritis Foundation maintains a handy list of ‘ease-of-use’ tools for gardening.
5. Take Proper Precautions
Carry a cell phone when you’re in the garden. That way if you need help, you’re not stranded.
Lessen the likelihood of needing to call for help by learning how to stay safe in the garden
. Garden before 10 AM or after 4 PM when the sun is weaker and temperatures may be cooler. Even if you do garden during safer hours, however, it’s important to wear proper sun protection.
That includes a hat, sunglasses, a long-sleeve shirt, and pants. The shirt and pants can help protect you from not just the sun but also from disease-carrying ticks.
Finally, since gardening is a type of physical activity, consult with your doctor if you have had a change in your health recently. He or she can help you understand any limitations you may have. Some doctors and physical therapists suggest warm-up exercises or stretching before you begin gardening.
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