The Benefits of Gardening for Senior Mental Health

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The Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Few would disagree that being out in nature helps calm the emotions and lift one’s mood. And if that outdoor time is spent cultivating a garden, there are even more benefits to enjoy. Gardening activities for seniors combine productive physical effort, social interaction, and exposure to the open air and sunlight. Sunlight lowers blood pressure and increases levels of vitamin D. The moderate aerobic exercise involved with gardening increases production of serotonin and dopamine — the feel-good hormones — and decreases levels of cortisol, one of the stress hormones. It’s not surprising then, there are mental health benefits associated with gardening for seniors. The social interaction of working in communal or therapeutic garden projects will also help counteract the isolation some seniors may otherwise feel. Let’s look a little closer at how and why getting started in gardening is one of the smartest choices an older adult can make.

The right level of physical exercise.

Regular moderate exercise is important for anyone hoping to lower his or her risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and other conditions. But even someone who’s been active into their 50s or 60s will experience a gradual lessening of strength and flexibility. The range of motion in our joints just isn’t what it used to be. Even activities we’ve enjoyed for decades — tennis, handball, lap swimming, for example — can become too difficult to do regularly. As we grow older, even minor sports injuries tend to become more frequent and hang on longer. But gardening is a great way for seniors to get regular exercise, lubricate joints, and help strengthen mobility. It’s also a good idea for seniors to engage in stretching before and after gardening to minimize risk of injury, increase blood circulation, improve balance and coordination, and enhance muscle control.

The therapeutic nature of plant life.

Just being around plants will increase one’s sense of well-being. Cities designate green space in parks and community gardens as a place for urbanites to gather, reflect, recreate, and restore feelings of inner peace. Gardening, or simply tending to a few plants can have a similar effect for older adults, helping reduce stress and improve concentration. Even a small flowerbox on a windowsill can offer the psychological benefits of plants. Helping cultivate life and watching it grow is also potentially therapeutic to people suffering from loneliness or coping with enduring mental health issues. There appears to be an intrinsic relationship between gardening and hope. Planting a seed in soil requires hope and prompts engagement and positive expectations.  

9 reasons why gardening is good for mental health.

As reported by Sarah Rayner in Psychology Today:

1.    A sense of responsibility- Having to care for plants is a good way to learn to look after and respect other living things and appreciate the magic of nature.

 2.    We are all nurturers- Tending plants and seeing them grow is a transformative activity that boosts the self-esteem of the nurturer.

 3.    Keeping connected to living things- Gardening reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. Focusing on the great outdoors discourages self-absorption and encourages us to be less insular.

4.   Gardening lets us let go- This is an activity that can be both social and solitary. It can be an escape, if that’s what’s needed. The rhythmic nature of many tasks associated with gardening — planting, weeding, trimming, sweeping —allows thoughts to ebb and flow with our movements.

5. Nature helps trigger happy hormones- What’s good for the body is also good for the mind. The gentle exercise of gardening triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine while lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

 6.Plants remind us to live in the present- One of the best ways to calm an anxious mind and lift the mood is to pause, be more aware of the sensual nature of the environment around us, and become involved in the present moment.

 7. It’s easier to see the cycle of life- Rituals help us work through difficult emotions. Gardening is a form of ritual involving the giving of life and the acknowledgement of its end. Gardening is symbolic of regeneration.

 8. Gardening helps one feel in control- Anxious people often feel overwhelmed. Gardening can be a good way of gaining a sense of control — not over other people, but over the task at hand. Seeing results can be a particularly satisfying experience.

 9.  Gardening is easy- You don’t need a garden the size of a meadow to enjoy its benefits and rewards. Even a hanging planter or a few pots along the window ledge can lift the spirits. 

You can put down roots at Symphony.

At Symphony Senior Living communities, our mission is to provide the highest quality senior living experience in Canada. We offer just the right balance of life-enriching activities and programs as well as the personal solitude many seniors prefer. And if the time comes that you or a loved one should need care and support, the high-caliber services are ready for you here at Symphony. We invite you to get to know our communities. Contact us today. 

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