The benefits of gardening
Gardening is a source of joy for many people and there’s no reason why you can’t continue to get pleasure from gardening, even if you have a physical disability or dementia. It’s possible to make adjustments to your garden and the tools you use so that gardening is still comfortable and safe for you.
There are numerous benefits associated with gardening, including:
- physical activity
- mental and sensory stimulation and reduction of stress and anxiety
- a sense of ownership and accomplishment
- time spent outdoors, in nature.
If you enjoy gardening but are finding it physically difficult, even minor adjustments can make a big difference.
- Use raised planters: grow flowers and vegetables in raised beds instead of growing them at ground level so you don’t need to stay on your knees for extended periods.
- Hanging baskets: these can be fitted with pulley systems to make them easier to reach.
- Lay down plastic underlay: and cover it with bark chippings to help prevent weeds from coming through.
- Long-handled and easy-grip trowels and forks: these are a good alternative if you have limited dexterity. You may not need to buy a whole new set of tools – add-on grips or handles can be fitted to adapt the tools you already own.
- A garden kneeler: this can make it a lot more comfortable to kneel for longer periods.
- Adapt greenhouses: make them wheelchair accessible using ramps and toughened safety glass to prevent accidents and injuries. You could also get an automated watering system fitted for ease.
It may be a good idea to also consider the types of plants you are taking care of, as some require a higher level of care than others. Creating borders with low-maintenance plants (such as shrubs and annual bedding plants rather than higher-maintenance perennials) can reduce the difficulty of gardening.
If you no longer have an outdoor garden of your own (perhaps you’ve moved into sheltered housing or a care homes, or have simply downsized to a smaller property), it needn’t mean you can no longer enjoy gardening. A whole range of herbs, house plants and even vegetables can be grown indoors with the right care and attention.
A herb garden is one of the simplest ways to continue gardening indoors, with the added benefit of being able to use and enjoy the produce when cooking.
If you are able to, consider a trip to a garden centre where you can plan your indoor garden, choosing which plants are most suitable and discussing the options with gardening experts.
Gardening for people with dementia
For people with dementia, gardening can be a very important part of your cognitive exercise, providing a broad range of potential activities and benefits. For example, if you have a vegetable garden, planning what meals to make with the vegetables is a practical and enjoyable form of mental stimulation. If you grow flowers, you might enjoy activities such as flower pressing or arranging.
Growing plants from seed to flower can also be a gentle, stress-free way to keep track of passing time and seasons, particularly if you’re a life-long gardener.
Even if you’re no longer able to live at home and enjoy your own garden, visiting parks and other public gardens – or even your own – can still be beneficial.
If you're living in a care home or are a family carer planning to move a loved one to a care home, find out if it is has accessible gardening facilities for residents. This could well be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing a care home.
For people with dementia, gardening can be a very important part of your cognitive exercise, providing a broad range of potential activities and benefits.
The Which? Gardening community
If you enjoy using Facebook, you might like to know about the Which? Gardening page. This is a closed group, which means your posts won’t be published outside of this page, and it’s a friendly place to chat about all things plants and gardening.
It may no longer be suitable for you to continue the physical aspects of garden maintenance – such as mowing the lawn or hedge trimming – so it’s important to make sure that this is taken care of and without risk of injury. This may be something a family member is willing to help out with, or it may be worth hiring a professional gardener to take on some of the more taxing gardening tasks.
If this is something you’re considering, Which? Trusted Traders has more advice about hiring a trader.
Some councils in the UK offer garden maintenance for older people or disabled council tenants, so contact your council to find out whether this is provided in your local area.
If you’re disabled, you can also apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) to improve access from the home to the garden.
Find out more about how to stay active and healthy in older age, with advice on doing gentle home exercise.
Cognitive exercise can help us maintain our mental health as we age. It can also help people with dementia.
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