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Gardening to Beat Depression in Later Life

April 19, 2016

Gardening to Beat Depression in Later Life
Depression is the one of the leading mental health problem affecting older adults. According to the BC Medical Journal, between 14 and 20% of seniors display symptoms of depressions. These rates soar to 45% with hospital admissions.
In general, depression is a common condition among Americans. Nearly 230 million prescriptions for antidepressants are filled every year making it the most prescribed medication in this country.
This option is not always the best one, especially for seniors who may be taking a variety of other medications. Antidepressants can cause negative side effects and drug interactions.
The good news is there are effective ways to treat depression in older adults that do not involve medication. One option is to spend time outdoors in the garden.
Benefits of Gardening for Your Senior Loved One
A survey in Gardeners World  revealed that 80% of people who garden consider themselves to be happy. That number is 13% higher than people who don’t spend time digging in the dirt.
In addition to boosting mood, other gardening benefits include: 
  • Physical Fitness: Studies show spending 30 minutes working in the garden can burn as many as 200 calories. It helps to build core muscle strength and endurance.
  • Decrease Major Health Problems: Increasing physical activity also helps to reduce health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
  • Stay Busy: Gardening gives older adults a meaningful, productive activity to engage in each day. The sense of purpose can help prevent depression.
  • Stimulates the Senses: The bright colors, fresh scents and tasty vegetables gardening provides can give your senior loved one a sensory boost. This helps improve mood.
  • Maintain Flexibility: As we grow older, we often lose range of motion skills. Gardening requires up and down movements that help gardeners stay nimble.

Tips for the Older Gardener

If you and a senior loved one will be creating a garden together this spring, here are a few tips to keep in mind: 
  • Choose non-toxic plants that won’t irritate delicate, older skin.
  • Involve other family members in your project by hosting a planting party.
  • Grow herbs that your aging loved one can turn into calming essential oils or potpourri. Lavender and rosemary are two great options.
  • Install benches for your aging family member to rest on throughout the garden. This allows older gardeners to stay independent.
 Finally, consider investing in senior-friendly garden supplies. You can improve your senior family member’s outdoor experience with this list of tools for safe gardening.