Being present in nature, listening to tree dwellers and birds, and spending time in the sun is what seniors should aim for on a daily basis. For some seniors, gardening is second nature and they are drawn to the dirt, growth, and the sounds of hummingbirds and buzzing bees. This environment brings them a sense of peace and purpose. Harvesting plants or vegetables may also give some a sense of accomplishment. However, for others, gardening is perceived as an overwhelming and daunting task. “I’ve got a brown thumb” is an excuse used by many to avoid stepping into this new adventure.  Don’t let past “garden failures” be a deterrent from trying again. Try to embrace a new view on gardening and focus on the benefits this skill can offer. Gardening can benefit a senior’s mental, physical, and social health.

Gardening Benefits Memory

Seniors who have never tried gardening before can enhance their memory by learning this new skill. According to  Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, learning new skills improves memory while engaging in social activities or non-demanding mental activities at home does not. Caring for individual plant species requires a basic knowledge of botany. Start off by researching and identifying easy to grow plants in the region.

Seniors who have already mastered their gardening skills can expand their learning by growing an unfamiliar plant breed such as succulents. From their research, they may discover that all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti! Or, a senior can decide to pursue growing a small vegetable garden, which would require researching vegetables that would flourish in a five-gallon bucket a.k.a “container gardening.”

Gardening Helps Physical Health

Lifting bags of soil and plant pots is a workout. Digging in the dirt, pulling weeds and raking leaves requires determination and strength. Accomplishing these tasks will help maintain a beautiful garden and benefit a senior’s physical health. Their physical movements will make them stronger, which will make them less susceptible to injury. According to Life Satisfaction Inventory A (LSIA), gardeners rated their overall health and physical activity levels higher than non-gardeners. This included energy levels, optimism, zest for life, and physical self-concept.

Gardening also provides a senior with an outside routine. It is important for seniors to keep moving and avoid spending ample time indoors in a stagnant position. Seniors who spend time outdoors under the sun will increase their Vitamin D levels; Vitamin D is essential for maintaining bone strength. In general, seniors will have a more positive and energetic outlook on life when exposed to nature.

Growing your own food is a nutritional benefit to your health. Harvesting vegetables that have not been affected by pesticides and other chemicals, which are linked to health problems anywhere from asthma to cancer, will help keep seniors healthier and more fit.

Gardening Increases Social Interaction

Joining a community garden, or gardening in the front yard will increase a senior’s interaction with neighbors. Spending time alone in the home leads to isolation and depression, which is why it is important to stay engaged with others and meet new people. No matter your age, you can always gain a friend. The social engagement gardening provides is unique and brings a variety of personalities and people together.

A community garden allows seniors to engage in diverse conversations such as current neighborhood issues, local political discussions, or the exchange of planting and nutritional snippets. This experience may also prompt them to join a social-based organization or committee that can help kick-start a community garden at a school or in a lower economic neighborhood. Gardening is an open invite for expanding on one’s world perspective and contributions to society.