12 January 2018
Gardening advice for older people
Gardening is an immensely enjoyable activity, both rewarding and fun, and there is so much joy one can attain from this simple pleasure. As we get older, and as our mobility deteriorates, gardening, like other activities, can become more difficult. But there is no reason to stop entirely and with the advice we have assembled below, you will be able to enjoy gardening, and the garden itself, for years to come.
Advice from The Middle-Sized Garden
The Middle-Sized Garden, a gardening blog by author and journalist Alexandra Campbell, is a gardening resource full of helpful tips and inspiration that is certainly worth checking out for those interested in the activity. Alexandra has offered us her tips for gardening in older age, which includes using lighter tools and engaging in table-top planting:
“Two top tips are to use the new generation of lighter tools - Kent & Stowe and Fiskars both have 'ultra-light' ranges, as do a number of other tool brands. New technology means that tools can be light, but still strong.
“The other tip is to look at table-top planting. There's a huge expansion in planters at table height (usually called something like 'raised bed tables'), and they're a great way of growing your own salads and veg, but they can also be used for flowers too. They mean that you can have a mini-garden on a terrace or balcony. With no bending down required! Harrod Horticultural, Forest Garden and Amazon all supply them, or check your local garden centre.”
Don’t overdo it and leave the garden relaxed
Garden Organic is a registered charity which brings together those that believe in the importance of growing organic for sustaining a healthy world. Through their research, Garden Organic have learned about the health benefits of gardening, that gardening can “help preserve bone density, and being outdoors can help dementia and sleep patterns.”
Garden Organic have plenty of advice on this particular topic and recommended to us above all else that, “The most important thing for the older gardener is NOT to try to do too much. This is the time in your life when you can relax and enjoy the nature around you.”
Garden Organic also recommend “that people with limited mobility and energy not get despondent or panic about not being able to stay on top of gardening chores. Leaving some areas of the garden more relaxed not only helps wildlife, but also means less pressure in keeping up with endless tasks.”
Take time to prepare
Thrive, a charity that uses gardening to improve the lives of those who live with disabilities, ill health, and mobility issues, know a thing or two about this activity. They were kind enough to part with some of their advice on this very subject, suggesting that older people take time to prepare for any gardening job.
“Think about the job you’re going to do and plan what will make it easier for you,” Thrive told us. “It might be as simple as making sure you have a kneeler with you to save your knees, or a stool or seat to work from to take rests.”
Thrive also suggest gathering your equipment where you need it instead of rushing up and down the garden: “Get all the tools you’ll need together to save trips back and forth to the shed or garage. Try and keep your storage area tidy and you’ll be able to find your tools more easily.”
Small steps like these can be really beneficial, especially considering, as Thrive say, that “some of the stresses and strains of gardening happen when we begin a job on impulse, without any planning.”
Make sure paths don’t get slippery
One of the most important things about enjoying one’s garden as we get older is making sure that it is safe and easy to navigate. Having a path throughout your garden can make things easier than just traversing the grass but any paths need to be looked after.
So make sure to check the surface of paths, keeping an eye on them in case they get slippery throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for algae and moss as this can also cause issues. Try and flatten out any paths that you have, ensuring that the chances of any trips and falls are minimal.
Utilise water butts
Gardens need water, and it’s an important part of tending to one’s property, but lifting heavy water cans around the place can become tiresome as we age, especially for those of us who require the use of stairlifts in the house. Hoses too can be tricky so it’s a good idea to install some water butts throughout the garden, catching water from a greenhouse, shed or garage. This way you won’t have to walk very far to make sure your plants have the water they need.
This is all about making life easier for yourself and having water butts placed at strategic locations, especially for those with large gardens, will help you to enjoy the activity for years to come.
Create a social space out of the house
You might not be as interested in cultivating a thriving garden with multifarious plant life and vegetation as you might have been in the past, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a beautiful garden to enjoy. Instead, just make sure to create a nice area where you and your loved ones can gather and enjoy the outdoors.
There are many options available, from patios to decking, or a simple table and chairs that are comfy to relax in while watching the world go by. By creating this social space out of the house, not only will it give you cause to venture outside but will be a way to continue enjoying your garden well in to your elder years.
Know when to ask for help
There are some tasks that eventually become just too difficult for us to manage on our own, especially for those of us that suffer with mobility issues. From hard to reach tree branches and high hedges to heavy lifting, there any many garden jobs that can become dangerous. So it’s important that we realise our own limitations and know when to ask for a little help.
Reach out to friends and family, or even hire a helping hand, especially if you are thinking about transforming your garden to allow you to enjoy it for many years to come. By doing this, you will ensure your wellbeing as much as possible while still reaping the benefits of a beautiful garden.
Use tools for those with mobility issues
As mentioned by Alexandra of Middle-Sized Garden, using the correct tools is important, especially as we get older and become less mobile. Aside from the lighter tools referred to, there are also garden tools specifically designed for those with mobility issues, making life easier and more enjoyable when gardening.
Welcome Mobility have a host of fantastic items available at very affordable prices. Tools such as an arm support grip with interchangeable garden tools; what this does is fasten to the user’s forearm, allowing you to grip tools such as cultivators and garden trowels. They also have a ‘long reach’ collection including a fork, trowel, and cultivator, extending the reach of these garden tools, allowing the user to remain seated. By utilising products like these, gardening can be as stress and pain-free as possible.
Redesign to decrease work
Redesigning your garden might sound like a lot of work, and you will certainly need some assistance, but by changing a few things and reworking certain areas, you can create for yourself a garden space that is easier to navigate.
If you are finding it difficult to bend, crouch down and walk around your garden, flattening things out will help, as will creating raised beds. Widening pathways will certainly be prudent, allowing those who require the use of wheelchairs to still navigate their outdoor space.
Age impacts us all but by asking for a little help and following the advice above, we can continue to enjoy our gardens and the art of gardening well into the future. Gardening brings joy to so many people, it would be a shame to let a silly thing like age get in the way,