As the weather heats up in spring, Tempe, Arizona gardeners are enjoying some of the fruits of their labors. From arugula and asparagus to nasturtiums and poppies, the bounty of the spring garden is something to celebrate. Another cause for celebration: the benefits of gardening for seniors. Here’s why getting outside to work the soil is good for mind, body and spirit:
Keeps You Moving
The benefits of exercise are well documented, and include improved cognitive health, reduced risk of some diseases, stronger bones and muscles, and increased ability to perform the daily tasks that support independence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gardening activities such as digging, light shoveling, weeding and shrub trimming, count as moderate-intensity physical activity, which is a significant contributor to healthy aging.
Reduces the Risk of Dementia
A long-term study that followed almost 3,000 men and women for 16 years found that daily gardening reduced their risk of dementia by 36%. Although the reasons are unclear, gardening’s beneficial effect on cognitive health may be because it requires the use of many critical functions at once, including sensory awareness, learning and problem solving, while promoting alertness and sustained attention.
According to the biophilia hypothesis, humans have an innate connection with nature, which causes us to find natural environments more relaxing than artificial ones. Science supports this hypothesis, with studies showing that time spent in a garden is restorative, even when the garden is a collection of potted plants on a patio or balcony.
Research also links gardening to lower levels of cortisol, sometimes called the stress hormone, and higher levels of serotonin, the body’s “feel-good” chemical. That may be because playing in the dirt exposes us to friendly bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, which trigger the release of serotonin.
Supports Hand Strength and Dexterity
Manual strength and dexterity can begin to decline after the age of 60, making common tasks like opening a jar of jelly or buttoning your shirt more difficult. You may not think of weeding as one of the benefits of gardening, but the gripping, grabbing and pinching you have to do when you pull weeds, deadhead flowers and plant seeds can keep your hands nimble and strong.
Boosts Vitamin D Levels
Being outside in sunny weather is one of the best ways to get the vitamin D your body needs to support immune health, muscle function, cognitive well-being and bone strength. Of course, excessive sun exposure has dangers, as well, including skin cancer. General guidelines suggest 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure on your arms and legs can be enough time to boost your vitamin D levels, although absorption will be impacted by the time of day, season, latitude, air pollution and your skin pigmentation.
Promotes Positive Aging
Positive aging is a mindset that allows older adults to cultivate well-being, even as some abilities decline. Researchers have found a link between gardening and a positive perception of aging. It turns out, the purposeful activity of tending a garden and the restorative effect of time spent in nature support a resilient attitude to getting older.
Provides Social Opportunities
Social isolation can be a serious concern for older adults, leading to an increased risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression and anxiety. Gardening, especially in a community garden, increases opportunities to socialize, creating a sense of belonging and connection as you bond over the beauty and bounty of the garden.
A Bountiful Lifestyle at Friendship Village Tempe
If you’re looking for an active lifestyle in Tempe that includes plenty of opportunity to enjoy the benefits of gardening for seniors, you’ll like what you find at Friendship Village Tempe. Our 1-acre community garden provides a place to enjoy the fruits of year-round gardening, while a community of fun-loving residents cultivates a dynamic, lively atmosphere. Contact us to learn more, or schedule a visit and experience the sunny side of life here at Friendship Village Tempe.