Tips to make gardening easy & enjoyable

DENVER — As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. With springtime blooming all around us, many people are excited to start one of their favorite warm weather activities, gardening. With the feeling of fresh air, warm sunshine on your face, and soil on your fingertips, who wouldn’t enjoy spending a nice long afternoon in the garden? Gardening is a pastime that can be enjoyed by all ages and shared with loved ones. Though it may be more difficult for seniors citizens to attend to the garden regularly, spending time outside can truly be beneficial.

“For many seniors who may spend a lot of time indoors, getting some fresh air while enjoying a relaxing activity can really lift their spirits,” said Mary Gauden Beardslee, HTR, a registered horticultural therapist, member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association. Beardslee also works with the InnovAge Greater Colorado PACE – Thornton Center, an InnvoAge program that provides and coordinates health care, home care and support to help many aging individuals to continue to live in their communities with dignity and independence.

According to Beardslee, “Gardening is the second most popular leisure activity among seniors, after walking. Those seniors who do garden regularly, report a better quality of life and increased energy levels.”

While spending time in the garden has clear benefits for people of all ages, many seniors may feel that it is too physically taxing to go outside regularly. On behalf of InnovAge, Beardslee offers the following tips to make gardening easier and more enjoyable for seniors and their caretakers.

Gardening Tips for Seniors:

  • If you have trouble gripping handles on your garden tools, wrap them in pipe insulation foam. This will provide a gentler, firmer grip. The foam is easy to find at any hardware store and is inexpensive.
  • Use a piece of white PVC pipe (that is long enough to prevent you from bending over) to create furrows in the soil. Then feed your seeds through the pipe into the furrow. Easy planting!
  • Use a plastic cup with a big handle to scoop up soil for planting or for dipping water out of a bucket for watering your plants. Even if you can’t grip well, the handle will secure the cup to your hand.
  • Make sure your filled watering can is not too heavy. Watering cans come in all sizes. If they are all too heavy for you, water your plants with a wet sponge; just squeeze it over the plants.
  • Hang a magnifying glass on a string around your neck and use it to read the fine print on seed packets.
  • Plant flowers in your favorite colors that bring back happy memories from your past like hollyhocks, irises, tulips, peonies and roses.

Gardening Tips for Caregivers:

  • ALWAYS have plenty of water to drink and bring along gardening gloves, sunscreen, sun hats and sunglasses for your loved one while they are in the garden. Some medications cause adverse reactions in sunlight. Find out if your loved one is taking one of these types of medications, so you can plan accordingly.
  • Be mindful that some plants are poisonous and can cause allergic reactions. Do your homework!
  • Paint the handles of the garden tools a bright color (like orange or yellow) which makes them easy to find in the garden-both for you and your loved one.
  • You can create a portable shade garden for your loved one by attaching a long-handled umbrella to a support arm on his or her wheelchair.
  • Make sure that the raised beds, where your loved one is gardening, have “friendly” edges that are smooth and contoured, as to eliminate the risk of scraping and splintering his or her skin.

InnovAge is here to help seniors and caregivers, alike. InnovAge provides a full spectrum of services to enable older adults to live independently in their homes and communities. InnovAge offers home care services, healthcare and day programs, care management and memory loss programs. For more information about InnovAge services in your area, please visit www.MyInnovAge.org or call toll free at 888-992-4464.

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