Unless you’re living in the southern U.S. chances are gardening season is only just beginning for you. Long awaited and long anticipated by those of us who live through bone-chilling cold, knee high blizzards and soggy springs, gardening season is that special time of year where we eagerly anticipate the arrival of blooming roses and big, bosomy peonies. Honestly, we’re not sure which of those two smell better and if you’re not even sure what a peony is – ask your parents – it’s a sure bet they’ll know! What we also know here at Amintro is that our audience of active, engaged and healthy seniors are always looking for ways to STAY active, engaged and healthy. Frankly, gardening fits the criteria and we have some ideas on how you can support them!

How To Garden:

We’re serious. Just because gardening is natural doesn’t means it comes naturally to all of us. Even if it does, your parents might still be thinking of themselves as younger than they really are and while they might be young at heart, you might want to offer some suggestions on how to approach gardening wisely. Heck – you might even want to engage in some bonding time and help them with some of the heavy lifting! What better way to support the more mature adults in our lives than by helping them to age in place, enjoy their space and after all your hard work, enjoying a cool beverage together whether that’s poolside or under the shade of the patio umbrella?  Here are just a few suggestions on how to garden successfully:

  • Warm Up and Stretch
    • This tip applies to both you and your older loved one. Even if they are already an active and EnGaged older adult they should probably spend some time warming up and stretching before starting to lift fertilizer bags, crawling around in the dirt to plant flowers or using a shovel to shift soil. Gardening is actually hard work and everyone involved should be loose, limber and prepared.
  • Protect, protect and protect
    • Boomer parents might deny this but there’s a good chance they spent some time in the sun, as a younger adult, covered in tanning oil. Yikes! Those days are thankfully over but they still might not recognize the importance of sunscreen. Make sure everyone is using a product that is at least a 30 or above and that it is waterproof/sweatproof.
    • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect the head, neck and shoulders.
    • Gardening gloves are a must! Who needs blisters or to be stabbed by a thorny rose bush? Enjoy the buds and blooms not the blisters. Here’s a hint, these make a great little gift for Mom or Dad!
  • Kneelers or knee-pads.
    • Digging around requires a lot of bending, squatting or actually kneeling on the ground and while Amintronians are active, healthy and engaged older adults – the truth is – some might have knees that have experienced several lifetimes worth of use. If that’s the case, consider keeping an eye out for gardening tools and aids that cater to older adults like comfortable and wearable knee-pads or a kneeling pad. There are also many gardening tools now adapted for use by mature adults or persons with disabilities. These include long handled weed extractors, spades, hoes and other tools.
  • “Early to Bed, Early To Rise.”
    • The best time to work outdoors is early in the morning or in the cool of the evening just before dusk sets in. Chances are this fits in best with your loved ones schedule anyway so even if it means setting your alarm clock, helping in your parent’s garden early leaves more time for you to tend your own too.

Why Your Parents Should Consider Gardening, and Why You Should Encourage Them.

Here are just a few of the things research tells us about enjoying the great outdoors:

  • It’s a natural mood booster! Getting outdoors, fresh air and exposure to vitamin D are all natural and known mood enhancers so simply put, gardening is good for the spirits.
  • It’s exercise! No matter what type of gardening gets done; from pushing a lawn mower, to digging, planting or tree trimming, it’s movement and moving is good! Walking, lifting, bending and shifting – it’s all part of healthy, active living and is part of aerobic exercise.
  • It’s Age-Proof! Staying active in the garden is just one in a long line of strategies to prevent dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s. According to the AARP, at least one study done in the early 2000’s found a 36% decrease in the likelihood of developing dementia amongst those who garden. It makes sense since we already know that exercise and using the brain for a variety of activities (like identifying plants from weeds for example) are great ways to focus the mind and helps to prevent disease.
  • It’s a Natural Healer. Gardening helps to calm anxious behaviours, reduce stress and can even help those struggling with anxiety disorders, depression and/or addiction issues. It’s known to help people sleep better and has even been shown in some studies to improve self-esteem.
  • Forges Connections. Whether it’s just talking to the neighbours, interacting with family or gardening inspires your loved one to consider volunteering at a community garden; being outdoors and working hard is a chance to interact with others, make new friends and stay connected.
  • Active engaged adults are healthier adults, with well-formed connections to community and who tend to report feeling more empowered. Not to mention – if gardening includes cultivating some your own fruits and vegetables, they’ll be eating healthier too!

What You Can Do To Support Your Parents Love Of Gardening

  • Perennials:
    • Almost any gardener, regardless of age, will agree that perennials are a, well, a perennial favourite! That’s because they make gardening easy. Planning a perennial garden takes time and thoughtful consideration however. Offer to spend an afternoon helping your loved one to either plan for a perennial garden, or if their current garden needs some thinning out – do some of the heavy lifting and you can reap the rewards by taking some plants home to your own place!
    • For retirement living community members, perhaps you can look for appropriate shade, and/or balcony gardening techniques including plants that thrive in pots or hanging baskets. These make great gifts too!
  • Potting Sheds and Potting Tables, Portable Greenhouses and More
    • Perhaps your parents are considering “aging in place,” but they need to make the living environment a little easier to handle. This means, as we mentioned earlier, that even though they’re EngAgers they might need a little extra help staying that way! Here are a couple of ideas:
      • With more time on their hands, potting sheds where plants can be started early, on table tops that require minimal bending and squatting and where all the tools are easily at hand are an ideal location for seniors to get their gardens started.
      • The same goes for potting tables that enable transferring of perennials, plant splitting and sharing with neighbours, re-potting of plants (even indoor plants) with minimal fuss and less mess, all while comfortably standing or sitting.
      • Portable greenhouses allow those with a green thumb to continue their gardening all year long and these too are practical gift ideas that mean more to your Mom and Dad than just another meaningless tchotchke.

Buds, blooms and botanicals are blossoming all over the place. The sun is shining, the grass is green and patio season beckons. We can’t think of a better time to get outside and do something that’s good for you, good for the planet and good for your parents too! There are numerous benefits to gardening so what are you waiting for? Call or visit your parents or any older and special loved ones and bring a small gift of encouragement – even the gift of yourself to do some of the work – to get them outside and enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you, or your loved ones, are motivated by the pretty sight of perennials or the cold beverage awaiting you poolside or on the patio when the work is done – get outside and get gardening!