Garden Time/Helps and Safeties

Gardening time has arrived with Spring! Gardening is a popular hobby for many elderly.  It helps to constructively pass the time with calming effects that have the end result of a serene, tranquil environment.  Gardening is a creative pastime that is ideal for the elderly in your care because it promotes imagination, resourcefulness, and inspiration.  It is both a comfort and privilege to watch tiny seeds spring-forth abundant, fruitful, natural life.  There are many ways to experiment with gardening, which help to revive the senses of the elderly and boost their esteem at times they may feel lonely or that time has passed them by.

* Container gardeningSenior woman gardening

* Raised bed gardening

* Indoor gardening

* Community gardening

Container gardening is a horticultural method that entails raising food, herbs, and flowers in open containers (bowls, pots, bottles, canisters, tubs, etc.).  Container gardening is ideal for winter climates because the containers can be brought inside to avoid frost or extreme heat.  Also, this method is model for those that live in apartment housing, group living, and those that have limited mobility.  This method also gives the gardener complete control over the nourishment of the plants (the amount of water and sunlight).

Raised bed gardening is slightly similar to container gardening, but in a more open environment and a broader scope.  This method allows the gardener to have complete control over the amount of soil and attention given to the plants (weeding, pesticide use).  Raised beds are generally detached assemblies made from diverse products, such as clay, wood, or even concrete slabs.  This method of horticulture gives the gardener an open venue of creativity, which influences pride in their work.  Also, raised bed gardening promotes the activity of movement and motion, while allowing the elderly to garden at their own pace.

Indoor gardening is the beautiful nature brought inside the home.  This method is best for those that are blessed with a green thumb, but prefer or physically require the creation to be at a fingertips reach.  Plants commonly grown indoors are herbs (Garlic, Basil, Chives, Catnip, Peppermint) Begonia, Spider Plant, Poinsetta, Aloe, and shrubbery.  Indoor gardening does not require much experience and allows the gardener to enjoy nature’s environment year round.

Community gardening is usually a group effort, which is a wonderful way of helping the elderly to interact with others socially, while restoring/maintain gratification of a job well done.  This method of horticulture enhances neighborhoods and municipal living.  Both plants and produce can be grown in a community garden setting.

Safety First

1. Garden early in the morning or late afternoon.  Try to avoid being outside between 10AM and 2PM.  This is normally the muggiest, most heated time of day.  Too much sun can cause severe sunburn, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.

2. Take breaks.  Encourage your patient to take time to enjoy their work beneath supple shade that will offer relief from the heat and direct sunlight.

3. Hydrate.  Water, water, water!  Have plenty of water on hand.  In direct sunlight, the average person loses 500ML of water through perspiring, each day.  The elderly tend to dehydrate 23% faster than the average adult.  Also, as we age, our bodies lose touch with our senses, and often, the elderly do not recognize the signs of dehydration.

4. Proper clothing.  In hot weather, make sure those you give care to are dressed in lightweight clothing as well as light in coloring.  Darker colors attract the sun.  Apply sunscreen for extra protection, as well as sunglasses to protect the eyes.  Encouraging the use of a cap or hat is a good precaution because this shields the face from direct sunlight.  Also, gardening gloves are important.  They protect the fragile skin of the elderly from friction blisters and nicks and cuts with tools.

5. Have a chair or bench on-hand.  This will help the patient to sit when needed and allows easier gardening without having to stoop and bend as often.

6. Provide tools with good grips on the handles.  Gardening is meant to be a hobby of relaxation.  Frequent dropping of tools can result in frustration and/or self-scolding.  Easy- grip tools have non-slick handles and are lightweight.

As a caregiver, encourage your patient to experiment with garden time that will stimulate quieted senses and encourage noble feelings of pride upon completing a peaceful, creative, and pleasurable task.  Always remember, safety first!