Gardening July 17 Jovita Topete - resident (003)slide-19By Joe Longoria, Director of Rehab; Valley Grande Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

As we age most of us become more appreciative of the simpler things in life. A sunset. A walk in the park. A round of golf.

If you take that concept a bit further, you’ll find that the elderly have so much to gain with activities they once took for granted. Take gardening as an example. A recent study I just came across reports (German Neuroscience Centre, Dubai) that psychologists say that horticultural therapy can improve people’s emotional, physical, and cognitive health. Some studies indicate that time in the garden reduces stress by lowering blood pressure and reducing muscle tension.

But even more important with the elderly is that gardening stimulates the senses, giving them a sense of being alive and present in the moment. But there’s even more to be gained from this study, such as:
• A sense of accomplishment and a feeling of contribution gained from gardening tasks. It can improve moods, reduce depression, and increase self-esteem.
• People connect and laugh over a shared experience
• They work as a team
• The sense of isolation is decreased

According to Dr Thoraiya Kanafani, a clinical psychologist and co-owner of Human Relations Institute and Clinics, gardening can result in “reduction of pain, improvement in attention, successful frustration management, lowering needs of medication, and reduction of falls.”

The same study reports that the elderly experience an increase in oxygen flow and the physical activity strengthens muscles, improves coordination, balance, and endurance. Horticultural therapy also creates a “meditation-like” environment that can improve memory, cognitive skills, task initiation, socialization, working independently and language skills.

Gardening is just one of many activities we take for granted. But for the elderly – whether they’re at home or in a nursing center – it can be the gateway to a better quality of life.