Health Benefits of Gardening and Spring Activities for Seniors

Friday, 20 March 2015 13:36
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When Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul,” he wasn’t just being sentimental. Researchers at Rutgers University found in 2001 that spending time around flowers eased senior depression, inspired seniors to make new social connections and be more outgoing, and helped them achieve more through memory exercises. In the over 100 seniors who were studied flowers proved to be a small step that could have big results.


That’s all the more reason to encourage seniors to engage in springtime activities like gardening. A study done in collaboration between Texas A&M University and Texas State Universities found that adult gardeners felt their lives were more satisfactory and had a more positive outlook on life. The participants in the study were graded on their “zest for life,” “resolution and fortitude,” how well they managed to turn their desires into achieved goals, how they viewed their physical, psychological, and social well-being, and how optimistic they were. The gardening adults were more physically active, more likely to make plans for the future, and saw themselves as begin in good health.


A different research project from the University of Colorado at Boulder revealed that it isn’t only the physical activity and routine engagement that gardening provides, but that the soil itself may have a role to play in the increased well-being of senior gardeners. Certain soil microbes are not only totally harmless, but may boost the immune system and decrease anxiety and depression. There’s also Vitamin D to factor in, which can be absorbed through the skin when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is crucial for helping the body to absorbed other vitamins and minerals like calcium, which can help protect against osteoporosis. Vitamin D has also been linked to improved mental health and reduction of anxiety and depression.


That’s already a slew of reasons for retirees to enjoy “a little bit of earth” as Mary Lennox requested in The Secret Garden. But there’s still more— the physical benefits of gardening. Moving around, lifting light objects, bending, squatting, kneeling, and using the hands is exactly the kind of low-impact, full-body exercise seniors especially benefit from. Gardening isn’t strenuous by any means, but it does help seniors maintain muscle tone, balance, coordination, and other physical conditioning that may help them prevent falls or other physical discomforts as they age. 


There are other ways to enjoy spring and get that daily dose of flower power, though. A regular walk outside for even short periods and distances can have major physical, emotional, and cognitive health benefits. Between the increased circulation, Vitamin D intake, and sensory input, going for a walk is an excellent way for seniors to maintain health, and there’s no pleasanter time for a stroll than in the spring, whether it’s around an outdoor track, on the grounds of their Regency Retirement community, or for a gentle wildflower walk at a state park or arboretum. 


Spring is also a season of innumerable events, from the beginning of baseball season to the start of car shows, farmers markets, craft fairs, and music festivals. After being cooped up all winter with the cold and wet, people of all ages and interests are eager to get outside, feel the spring breeze on their skin, and reengage with their favorite activities. At Regency Retirement, we can’t wait to see how you savor spring.

Read 1784 times Last modified on Friday, 01 May 2015 18:20