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Tips to Make Gardening Easy for Older Adults

May 29 2020

By Amelia Hoffbauer

It's no coincidence that gardening is one of the activities shared by centenarians around the world. Caring for and nurturing plants creates a sense of purpose at an age where receiving care is the norm. One significant benefit of aging in place is being able to continue working in the garden. But aging bodies may have to make some modifications to perform the same gardening tasks they once did. Here are some tips to make gardening easy for older adults.

Minimize Physical Challenges

Aging adults often find bending and kneeling quite challenging. These are, of course, actions commonly associated with gardening. Installing raised beds, vertical gardens or hanging baskets can eliminate the need to stoop and bend. The easier it is to access a garden, the more likely it is to be a pleasure rather than a pain to maintain it.

Other physical challenges older adults face while gardening? Arthritic or weak hands can make it tough to grasp tools. Consider getting ergonomic tools that are more user-friendly. Extreme weather can also be an obstacle to gardening in winter. Consider installing a small greenhouse or creating a windowsill or container garden to enjoy during the months when working outdoors is not an option.

Create Easy Access

Simply getting from point A to point B safely can be a challenge for many. Easy access to the garden should be the first priority. Ramps are preferable to stairs, and walkways and driveways leading to and around a garden need to be smooth, level and well-lit. There are many ways to make walkways safe, but the top one is keeping paths free of clutter.

Add Lighting

Vision declines as we age, making outdoor lighting extra crucial for safe movement to and from the garden. Good lighting makes spotting obstacles easier, reducing the risk of falling. Walkways should be down-lit (rather than horizontally lit) to illuminate tripping hazards. Motion-detecting lights are perfect for entrances in case an enthusiastic gardener stays out past dusk. Using solar-powered lights reduces maintenance—another consideration for those gardening in place.

Keep Maintenance Simple

Landscape maintenance—such as irrigation, weeding and pruning—is necessary to keep a garden looking its best. But even routine maintenance can be simplified with a few small tweaks. Replacing portions of lawn with a hardscape ground cover like gravel, wood chips or mulch will reduce the need for irrigation and weeding. Automatic sprinklers make watering a breeze and planting native plants will reduce the need for irrigation.

Take a Seat

Adding outdoor seating to the garden can make time spent outdoors more comfortable and enjoyable for aging folks. While seating that can accommodate large family visits or social gatherings is nice, it isn’t necessary. Having some basic, comfortable seating available in different parts of a garden makes it possible to stop and rest or just to watch the birds and nature around the garden. Few additions make as significant an impact in gardens for older adults as outdoor seating options.

Don’t let a little thing like aging get in the way of gardening. With a few small adjustments, it's possible to garden for years to come.

Amelia Hoffbauer has been growing her own fruits and vegetables for more than 60 years, and at 83, shows no signs of slowing down. Her real passion is for her prize rose bushes, which have won her six blue ribbons at her county fair.