By Juliane Kristine Morris
At any age, outdoor gardening remains a best activity choice–whether to produce decorative flowers to adorn a home, provide edible ingredients for mealtime, or help nature’s bees and other creatives to thrive. Gardening connects us with our natural world and awakens our senses.
For aging bodies, gardening’s light-to moderate-intensity workout helps keep calories in check, and assists to maintain and improve flexibility, coordination and strength. By being aware of ability and making accommodations for limitations, gardening can remain thoroughly rewarding.
Consider your pathways to and around the garden area. Are they flat, well-paved and generally safe? Paths that are four or more feet wide allow access to walker and wheelchair maneuvering. Place a comfortable and shaded outdoor bench or chairs along the path. Install low-voltage and solar-powered path lighting to improve pathway visibility.
HEIGHT & ACCESS MATTER:
Raised beds or planters help with planting, watering, feeding, weeding, and harvest time, while minimizing excessive straining, bending and reaching. Using garden pots, planted flowers and veggies can be in lighter weight foam-walled or resin containers with lightweight or soil-less mixture, and moved around if locking casters can be incorporated.
Native plants are a great choice for ease of care.
Select plants that can tolerate being left to their own devices so that if you skip a day now and then, the garden’s health and success is not compromised.
Explore advancements in vertical gardening where vining plants are encouraged to grow upward with supportive stakes, trellises, fences and cages. These are also helpful during harvest time, and add more space to limited areas. Irrigation innovations add efficiencies to make gardening efforts more targeted and less time and labor intensive
Use a safe sunscreen (including protective SPF lip balm), a broad-brim hat, sunglasses, gardening gloves, sturdy shoes and insect repellent when needed. Wear lightweight, long-sleeved clothing to help protect against sometimes slower-healing garden scratches and cuts. Work in the morning and evening when the sun is lower and air cooler. Take a filled reusable drinking container outdoors so the thought of having to go indoors to get a drink is not a hindrance to quenching your thirst.
MOVEMENT MATTERS: Tighten the body’s core muscles when lifting and placing down carried items, taking care not to twist. To help prevent injury, bend at the knees and hips. Use a stool rather than kneeling or crouching to do ground-level work. Avoid excessively prolonged repetitive motions and work that strain certain muscle groups or joints. Switch between easier and more rigorous tasks to provide periods of less straining work.
Tool handles can be painted in bright colors or wrapped in colorful tape to make them easier to locate from tool inventory or if dropped. Some tools have thicker handles which are sometimes easier to grip and control, or wrap the handles of existing tools with sliding form-fitting foam tubing.
BRING THE GARDEN INDOORS:
Planting a small potted garden on a windowsill or two around the home creates a low maintenance way to continue enjoying living, green, oxygen-gifting and spirit-lifting plant growth.