Spring has finally sprung and my tulips are in bloom, my favourite garden shop is open, the weeds are flourishing, and I have already mowed the lawn twice. My flower gardens are my summer passion and certainly an excellent way to rid myself of the stress accumulated during the day. Many seniors have enjoyed gardening all their lives and with some common sense and caution, there is no reason they cannot continue to pursue this passion, even in advanced age.
Gardening for seniors can benefit their health and well being while being therapeutic and allowing them to stay active and productive. Gardening is not only an enjoyable pastime; it is an excellent form of exercise for mobility, flexibility and use of motor skills that help improve strength and endurance. Working in a garden is beneficial for reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation thereby permitting better rest at night. Here are some tips for seniors that will help them enjoy their gardens all summer long.
- Do a few stretches to “warm” up before commencing gardening activities. This will help reduce muscle soreness later on
- Drink plenty of liquids (non-alcoholic) to keep your body well hydrated (Note: coffee and tea are not good choices either)
- Cleanse and dress any cuts, bruises, scrapes and insect bites immediately to prevent infection and check yourself for ticks after working outdoors
- Work in the garden early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the midday sun and heat that can make any senior ill or weary
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes and add a hat and gloves to cover exposed skin. Wear sunscreen to protect against sunburn and skin damage
- Know your limitations and if you feel fatigued, take a break and rest
- Rotate your gardening tasks so you are not putting strain on smaller muscles that will only become painfully apparent after it is too late
- Avoid using tools that require awkward body positions. If it is affordable try some of the new ergonomically friendly garden tools that are designed to reduce strain and injury because they work in conjunction with your body movements. These new tools are lightweight and sturdy for better control with the shorter handled tools giving better leverage and the longer handled tools providing better power for reduced effort.
- Finally, keep your tools sharp, well oiled and in good working condition. This reduces resistance during use and relieves some of the physical power needed to execute certain tasks.
Perhaps you are no longer able to tend large flower gardens or do not have the outdoor space anymore. Container gardening and raised flower and vegetable beds might be the solution to your problem. Solicit the help from your family or neighbours to get the supplies you need to get started, and then you are off and growing. Community Care for South Hastings is seeking community minded individuals to join our Board of Directors. If you are interested in volunteering for a preventative healthcare focused organization that is committed to keeping seniors well and living in their own home, call Shell-Lee at 613-969-0130 for more information and a referral to the Nominating committee.