Gardening and Aging Well

By Rachel Hemmingson, Consultant & Advocate for Aging Well

Ever since the stay-at-home decree, I’ve observed one small business down the street from me being absolutely swamped: it’s a garden center. There have been lines out the door every single day.

As an older homeowner, there’s this funny set of facts that come together. One is that, depending on your age, you may have more appreciation for flowers and gardening than younger generations.

It’s our history all over the world to be connected to growing things. Not so much for “digital natives” – those raised in front of TVs rather than gardens. Another factor for older people is having more time for gardening once they’ve retired.

On the other side, there’s those stiff joints and decreased balance and energy that come with aging. So what to do, now that you’re at home even more than usual?

First, I must say that gardening of any kind is deeply healthy for us. Some years ago, when the World Health Organization (WHO) did a study in countries around the world, including ours, one of the determinants of “successful aging” was access to nature and engagement with it.

There are an abundance of articles clearly establishing this connection as a powerful “social determinant of health.” It ranks right up there with companionship.

A article called The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Home’s Yard into a Community Garden, represents a bigger vision and project than most of us would want to undertake. Distilled down, you may want to explore this. Here’s a quote:

The benefits of starting a crop garden are endless: it’s great exercise, gives you the chance for fresh air and time in nature, can give you an outlet for burning off stress; not to mention the wholesome, fresh produce you’ll be adding to your diet. But one of the most wonderful things about gardens is the way they can bring together a group of people, large or small.

Converting your yard into a community garden is a rewarding experience for a homeowner and can have far-reaching positive benefits on your neighborhood.

They suggest that the number of people who will be helping should determine the size of garden, so you’ll need to assess the interest of your community up front. Ways to reach out to neighbors include by mail, distributing flyers and utilizing online resources like Nextdoor.

Once interested parties have been identified, have a meeting (six feet apart) to talk over the idea. Positive impacts include the health boost of fresh organic produce, bringing all ages together, building familiarity with each other, connecting children (those digital natives) with nature and creating a way for people of all ages to contribute.

We have all heard about how loneliness is as hard on our health as smoking cigarettes.  I watched personally the effect of a poor diet driven by the boredom and energy drag of being alone too much on my own elderly father. When I was blessed to find and bring in a caretaker in who became a great friend and apartment-mate to help him have a pet, garden and good food his health changed dramatically.

Letting your community turn your lawn into a garden may change yours as well.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Gardening and Aging Well

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