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Health & Wellness, Lifestyle

9 Surprising Benefits of a Community Garden for Seniors

From reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels to helping regulate sleep and wake cycles, enjoying the great outdoors can have a multitude of positive effects on senior health. Gardening and community gardens, in particular, can help enhance seniors’ overall physical, emotional, and mental well-being through socialization, physical activity, and spending time in nature.

To leverage these many benefits, some of the best retirement communities maintain gardening programs as part of their overall senior wellness offerings. If you live in one of these communities or are considering moving to one, you can have the benefits of a community garden at your fingertips. Need some concrete reasons to get a little dirt under your fingernails?

Let’s explore the characteristics of a community garden, gardening benefits, and how choosing a retirement community with gardening programs can enhance your day-to-day life.

What Is a Community Garden?

Before diving into the advantages of a community garden, it’s important to understand the basic definition. In broad terms, a community garden is a greenspace maintained by a particular community, typically residents who live nearby. The purpose of a community garden and the goals of those maintaining it can vary by location, ranging from establishing an accessible source of nutritious food to enhancing an area’s beauty and empowering residents to take ownership of their neighborhood.

Gardens in senior living communities can also have multifaceted purposes. Some gardens are designed with special attention to sensory details. These sensory gardens can benefit seniors in many ways, especially as a therapeutic tool for seniors experiencing cognitive decline or memory loss. Often, community gardens are created to offer residents the many benefits of gardening for seniors, which are outlined below.

The Advantages of Community Gardens in Senior Living

1. Gardening for seniors is a great form of exercise

There’s no question that increased physical activity can be beneficial to people of all ages. With gardening, you’re involved in lifting, carrying, bending, raking, and more. All good movements to keep you flexible and strong. Even if you have a limited range of motion, the gardens in senior living communities are typically outfitted with helpful features like raised planters, stumble-proof walking trails, benches, and even work tables at wheelchair height.

2. Gardening can improve and help maintain fine motor skills

Gardening involves working with tools and specific motions required for pruning, placing seedlings, etc. All activities associated with planting and tending have great health benefits when it comes to improving hand/eye coordination and maintaining fine motor skills.

3. Gardening can stimulate cognitive thinking

Of all the benefits of a community garden, one of the most important is that it’s good for brain function. Planning out plant placement and spacing, choosing the right tools, supplements, and seeds, and remembering what to water and when – these critical decisions all give your brain a great workout regularly. Gardening also gives people a chance to learn plant and flower names and acquire information about plant care, all great for energizing memory function.

4. Gardening can help alleviate stress and anxiety

When you spend time outside in beautiful, peaceful green spaces, you can’t help but feel more relaxed. And when you’re out in the garden, your whole focus is on caring for the flowers, fruits, and vegetables, not on your aches or worries. The act of nurturing and being surrounded by beauty is calming on every level.

5. Community gardens offer a sense of accomplishment and ownership

When the first flower blooms or the first tomato appears on a plant you’ve been tending, it’s a wonderful feeling, which is great for your mental health. Gardening is one of the most satisfying hobbies imaginable. When you work in a community garden, you not only get to see the results of your labor, but you also get to enjoy them for dinner!

6. Gardening programs for seniors can be a great way to make friends

Another one of the positive benefits of a community garden is that it’s a way to connect people to the land and each other. There’s something especially rewarding about working on a common goal or project together. Gardening also promotes goodwill. Every gardener knows a good garden always grows more produce than a few people can consume. So, gardening also promotes sharing healthy food grown in a local community setting with your neighbors.

7. Gardening can be an accessible hobby for seniors

Gardening is a hobby even beginners can master with relative ease. Typically, the garden in a retirement community is managed by an experienced gardener who loves to teach, guide, and engage new residents with enjoyable garden projects. Most residents who get involved say it’s the most fun they’ve had learning something new.

8. Gardening for seniors means getting access to fresh air and sunshine

Studies have shown that exposure to nature in a gardening space and gardening activities can enhance psychological well-being and also lower blood pressure and slow heart rate. In fact, just spending time out in the garden without ever picking up a spade is beneficial and helps improve quality of life.

9. Therapeutic gardening for seniors can promote sensory stimulation

Research has shown that one of the surprising benefits of a community garden is its positive effects on memory care residents. Encouraging those with dementia to tend plants can stimulate the sense of touch, hearing, vision, and certainly smell, all in one experience. Even cognitive function and memories are stimulated through the act of tending flowers and vegetables in the garden.

Explore the Many Ways to Stay Active in Our Community

Life at Friendship Village of South Hills is filled with ways to have fun, stay active, and socialize with friends. One of the many options for seniors to explore holistic wellness is through participating in our community garden, which brings the beauty of the outdoors into everyday life. If you’d like to hear more about our community, amenities, and services, simply complete the form below and one of our team members will reach out to you shortly.

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