Often, seniors who develop Alzheimer’s and dementia become withdrawn and paranoid as the disease continues to progress. However, gardening can help seniors recall memories of happier times which improves their state of well-being.
Some other benefits of gardening include:
- It helps to build confidence and experience the success of planting something, caring for it, and watching it grow.
- Gardening gets the person into the fresh air, boosts the level of energy, and helps to promote a good night’s sleep.
- It gives the person living with dementia a sense of purpose and can help to maintain a skill they already have.
- It helps to reduce stress by having the senior experience the different textures and colors of the plants.
- Gardening can also help with attention problems that can occur in people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.
How to make gardening senior-friendly:
First of all, remove as much grass as possible and replace it with paved areas, paths, ground covers, and mulched beds. Place some chairs or benches in shady areas for resting or taking a break from gardening. Raise some of the garden beds, so drainage is improved, it’s easier to access for seniors in wheelchairs, and more comfortable on the back and knees.
If your outdoor area is limited, then another option is vertical gardening. Grow the plants on trellises, using tomato cages, fences, walls, arbors, and bamboo stakes as supports. This way a lot of plants can be grown in a small area.
If the senior has a memory problem or is prone to wandering, installing latches and locks on gates is a good idea to keep them within the gardening area. Another tip is to be sure the paths are at least four feet wide for walker and wheelchair access. Also, making the path into a figure eight will work for the person’s tendency to wander. With one end wider than the other there is more room to turn around.
Tips to keep the senior gardener safe:
Before going out to the garden, be sure the senior has sunscreen and insect repellent. Using a lip balm of at least 30 is best for protecting lips as well. The best time to garden is in the morning and the evening. These times are when it’s the coolest outside, and the sun is at its lowest. Drinking plenty of water will avoid dehydration. Make sure the senior has sturdy shoes, sunglasses, gardening gloves, and a broad-brimmed hat. Have the senior move from one gardening activity to another to avoid putting a strain on any one set of muscles.
When considering tools and water hoses, shop around for the handles to ensure a surer grip. Check out gardening tools that are specially designed with seniors in mind. These can be kneeling benches, stools, rolling scooters, and ergonomic tools. Be sure all the plants which are planted in the garden are non-toxic and don’t have thorns, so no accidents occur.
Gardening is not only therapeutic and a great exercise for seniors who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. It will help to trigger positive memories, relieve stress, and lift the senior’s mood.