Gardening Made Easy for Seniors

Posted by Enlivant support center on February 3, 2022

No matter the season, it's always a good time for gardening! Whether they're prepping for outdoor gardening season or using an indoor garden to cure those winter blues, gardening offers so many health benefits for seniors. If you have a parent or loved one who likes to toil in the soil, whether their garden is in their backyard or on their windowsill, it’s a great activity for keeping active, reducing stress, and even improving concentration!

Physical Health Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Tending a garden is an inherently physical task – just think of all the kneeling, standing, lifting, raking, and weed-pulling that happens in a typical session. These movements help get the heart pumping without undue pressure to sensitive joints and bones. In fact, some studies show that this gentle form of exercise can actually cut the risk of heart attack or stroke by almost 30%. 

Pruning, using scissors, and other small hand movements are also great for maintaining digit dexterity and hand strength too. Gentle gardening activities that engage the joints are great for conditioning small muscles, which can be beneficial to those struggling with arthritis.

If back pain or knee pain is a concern, consider a raised garden! Your loved one won’t have to hunch, and vertical container gardens are a great option for an indoor gardening set up too. 

Gardening is a great opportunity for adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to a senior's diet too. They'll enjoy the fruits or their labor (literally!) by reaping the nutritional rewards of all those vitamins and minerals that we all need to thrive.

Mental Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

The benefits of gardening extend well beyond the body too. From a mental health perspective, gardening has been shown to alleviate anxiety and improve mood. As little as 30 minutes of gardening per day can significantly lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone that increases risk of depression, weight gain, and more.

Outdoor gardening is particularly beneficial for mental health too, with reports that spending just two hours a week on nature activities improved seniors’ concentration and reduced errors. Just being outside has been shown to aid recovery from surgery and help reduce anxiety and depression.

While outdoor gardening is great during the warmer months, indoor gardening is beneficial for seniors year-round. Indoor gardening has even been shown to be effective in improving sleep, agitation, and cognition in dementia patients.

Tips on Gardening for Seniors

Gardening is clearly a fantastic activity for seniors and older adults, but it may need to be adapted to be senior-friendly. Here’s our top tips on making gardening easy for seniors, whether it’s indoors or outdoors!

Outdoor Gardening

  • Choose plants, flowers, and produce that are easy to take care of and grow, like sunflowers, marigolds, pansies, begonias, or impatiens. 
  • For a vegetable garden, choose easy produce to grow, like fresh herbs, tomatoes, radishes, and zucchini.
  • To avoid back pain, use raised garden beds to avoid hunching over. 
  • Place a stool or chair in a shady spot in the garden so rest breaks are always close by. 
  • Cover tool handles in brightly colored electrical tape so they’re easy to spot if dropped.
  • Work in the garden in the morning or in the early evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day. And always wear sunscreen or a hat!
  • If heat is a concern, consider a patio garden! Pots and planters on a patio or balcony make it easy to care for plants outside and take plenty of breaks.

 Indoor Gardening

  • Choose a convenient and accessible location for the indoor garden. Avoid any areas that are too dark or too difficult to get to. 
  • If back pain is a concern, try a vertical container garden! Use a decorative ladder or plant stands to elevate plants off the floor. 
  • If floor space is at a minimum, hanging planters or plants fixed to a wall can also be a great way to garden indoors while saving space.
  • Choose plants and produce that will thrive in an indoor environment. Be mindful of size, height, and watering needs while choosing plants.
  • Set aside a special place for gardening tools and watering cans. Keep supplies together and placed in a designated area, so they’re always easy to find.

 Special thank you to Kristina Phelan at 
Prosely Creative for contributing