Fully bloomed florals, ripened vegetables, and a lush green vicinity—all before your eyes. Imagine partaking in growing this scenery. Just the thought of it stimulates tranquility.
But more than its beauty, gardening provides a lot of health benefits for seniors too. Its advantages stretch so wide that many senior living facilities incorporate its therapeutic effects into regular community programs. Even luxury memory facilities in Florida are equipped with these beneficial gardening amenities.
The calm ambiance of the garden not only provides serenity but stimulates cognitive processes too. Engaging in gardening involves a lot of critical functions. Hence, it offers the following benefits:
Promotes Brain Health and Decreases Risk of Dementia
Research shows that daily gardening may lower the risk of dementia by 36%. According to a Swedish study, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as much as physical activity would. Other brain-stimulating and less strenuous activities include knitting, reading, or tending the garden. By spending regular time in the garden, seniors can maintain their motor skills, increase brain volume, and reduce risk to cognitive impairment.
Encourages Sensory Stimulation
Dementia is caused by damage to a nerve cell. Progressive brain cell death leads to a loss of connection to the other parts of the brain. If the brain regions responsible for sensory responses are affected, it results in vision and hearing impairments, changes in smell, and decreased sensation. This may prohibit seniors from discerning the taste of spoiled food, hearing clearly, or even differentiating colors.
Through the intervention of gardening, they may revive their sense of the environment around them. Therapeutic gardens allow sensory stimulation by either aromatherapy from certain herbs, visual simulation, or just by indulging in the soft rustle of the winds and the music of nature. Given these benefits, gardening can also slow down the progression of early-stage dementia.
If gardening is something that a senior enjoyed doing before suffering from dementia, engaging in this activity may help them regain gradual memory loss. The reason for this is that the amygdala (the emotion center of the brain) allows us to recall memories that appeal to our emotions. Gardening therapy can improve brain activity and help them revisit those long term memories.
Improves Mood and Well-Being
Isn’t it weird how being around plants provides a sense of company and comfort sometimes more than people do? Plants make great best friends of all ages. In his book Biophilia, Edward O. Wilson states that this is not strange at all. According to him, there is an instinctive bond between people and other living things. It is only reasonable that we feel comforted around our botanical friends. Gardening is proven to relieve stress by reducing cortisol levels in the brain. This is why being around growing plants stirs tranquility and a regenerative feel.
Seniors under the challenge of dementia could also regain a sense of purpose, encouragement, and confidence through horticultural activities. By letting them take charge, they can rebuild their sense of responsibility and motivation.
Alleviates Depression and Improves Mental Health
Do you know what other more significant things a garden could provide besides luscious fruits? Happy hormones! We’re talking about serotonin, a chemical in our brain responsible for balancing moods. A decline in lifestyle may affect a senior’s mental health. Thus, it is necessary to have enough levels of serotonin.
Being out in the garden even under minimal sun exposure can increase Vitamin D absorption and, in turn, increase levels of serotonin. Exposure under elevated temperatures improves feelings of well-being. Whereas deficiency of such could lead to depression. This is the reason for seasonal depression or winter blues. Engaging in gardening activities can provide ample doses of vitamin D for a healthy mentality.
Suffering from cognitive impairment may result in social isolation. The decreased sensation often leads seniors to take the familiarity of touch as a strange feeling, which can make them feel isolated. But gardening sheds light on this gray phase. Attending a therapeutic garden allows seniors to interact with their peers. This can spark conversations and opportunities to build relationships. Though it may not instantly evolve to solid ties, being around other people is a step to improving your lifestyle.
Sense of Belonging
Gardening can create a feeling of belonging and build a sense of community. No matter the ability to socialize, human interaction spurts chemical balances necessary for mental well-being. After all, nothing is more comforting than interacting with peers on the same journey.
Increases Strength and Balance
Working in the garden requires dexterity and motor functions. Allowing seniors with dementia to engage in gardening tasks can improve hand strength, flexibility, and balance. Specific jobs like digging, transferring, and trimming plants can help maintain their motor skills.
Decreased sensation, such as severe hearing loss due to dementia, can make seniors feel overly-agitated. Being somewhat detached from your environment could do so. This is when the comfort of gardening comes like a tight embrace. Being under the tranquility of nature could stimulate sensations and soothe agitation.
No matter how small or drastic one’s engagement in the garden is, it still exercises constant muscle movement. For those who are not as agile, simple activities like planting seeds may suffice.
According to a Kansas State University study, gardening in golden years is an excellent form of aerobic exercise. In turn, it increases the level of physical activity without too much exhaustion. A few hours is enough to keep the muscles from weakening and helps improve mobility in the long run.
Luxurious amenities aside, memory care communities such as Sabal Palms are now equipped with therapeutic activities such as gardening. These communities continue to enrich senior residents for their twilight years with utmost comfort and care.