Time to Play in the Dirt with Senior Loved Ones

Seniors getting dirty – really? Yes, really!

Many have lived their lives tending gardens for themselves, their parents or their communities or grew up on a family farm. Playing in the dirt can bring back memories, stimulate brains, provide physical activity, and provide engaging activities for caregivers and seniors.

The time is perfect to get out in the yard or your community and start playing in the dirt! The sun is getting warmer and the ground softer.

Whether you decide to dig up a large plot of land and plant vegetables or pot up some containers of herbs or flowers, your senior loved one will enjoy a new experience with you and other family members.

We’re not the only ones who think this. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that the percentage of green space in a person’s living environment has a positive association with the general health of seniors. The more green space, the better.

Benefits of Gardening for Caregivers and Seniors

  1. Gaining self-esteem for what you can create. It could be beautiful flowers or food for your table. Starting something out slowly and watching it grow at your own hands will give your senior loved one and you a real sense of purpose.
  2. Working the dirt and planting a variety of different flowers and food can reduce your senior’s and your stress level. Communing with nature, listening to the birds chirp and insects buzz, taking in the warm rays of the sun will definitely bring peace and tranquility to your days.
  3. When you have a garden, it can increase social interactions when your senior shares it with people who are close such as neighbors, family and friends. She will love telling stories and sharing the fruits of her labor.
  4. The physical activity you and your loved one will do to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, water the growing sprouts, weeding, and carrying away the produce by walking, bending, and digging will work muscles and improve health.
  5. Eating the fruits, vegetables and herbs you both grow will help keep you healthy.

Tips for Gardening!

  1. Spring is the best time to start a vegetable garden. So, it is time to get started.
  2. Plan your garden. Get some gardening books from the bookstore or library and begin planning with your senior what types of plants he or she would enjoy. Do you want only flowers that can be cut to add color or fragrance to the house? Do you want to grow vegetables that you will enjoy eating? Do you want to use a whole plot or containers for the patio? Do you want to grow an herb garden and experiment with new flavors? This is the time to make a plan.
  3. Once your plan is established, it is time to dig in the dirt! Use a rake, hoe or shovel to loosen up the dirt. Turn over the dirt and mix in organic elements to improve your soil for growing if it is needed. Fill your containers with potting soil whether they are big pots, barrels or planter’s boxes.
  4. Time to begin planting. You can start with seeds or small plants. Follow the directions on the package or pot for planting depth, sun requirements and watering needed for healthiest plants.
  5. You should water to keep the soil moist; depending on the wind and sun you may need to water only once per week or more often.
  6. Keep your garden weed free. You may want to mulch after planting to keep the weeds down and the water in place. You may need to thin out plants if they grow too close together. For best results, you may want to fertilize your seedlings with a plant food to help them grow and fruit.
  7. Watch the plants grow, listen to the birds and the bees in the yard, reminisce with your senior about gardens he remembers and make each day in the garden an adventure. What was your senior’s favorite plant? Did he or she ever travel to see a garden?

The benefits of gardening for seniors are well documented. It adds quality of life to their days and health to their years. So much so, that there is a therapy that is involved with gardening activities for senior’s health. Horticulture therapy involves a trained therapist who works with clients on gardening-related activities to achieve specific goals. Therapeutic gardens have become very popular and now exist in many types of health facilities including public and private schools, nursing homes and senior centers, rehabilitation centers and hospitals.

“Gardening is one of the most popular home-based leisure activities in the United States and has been reported as the second most common leisure activity, after walking, of adults older than age 65 years,” according to one research study published in HortTechnology.

The time is now to have some fun with your senior playing in the dirt!