The benefits of gardening and spending time in nature are abundant. They are particularly important for older adults.
Some experts believe that spending time with nature can:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Boost your immune function (both protecting you from disease and help you recover quicker from illness)
- Reduce your stress level
Other benefits of spending time in nature include:
- Getting exercise
- Exposure to vitamin D from sunlight
- A possible reduction in seasonal depression from natural light
You don’t have to have a large yard and spend hundreds of dollars in flowers or maintenance. Benefits can be reaped from having only a few plants to care for. These can be in a small back yard, in large pots on a porch, or even from indoor plants on your kitchen counter. Research has shown that simply looking at nature (out a hospital window) or a framed photo of nature (not abstract art) can also be beneficial.
As individuals age, they are increasingly dependent on others. It boosts moral to have something dependent on you. Tending to a garden is a terrific way for grandparents to connect with grandchildren.
There are a multitude of life lessons that children can learn from tending to a garden (especially if it produces food). This is a great way to create lasting memories. At some facilities that care for individuals with Alzheimer’s, gardens are an integral part of resident life. It has been shown that patients’ anxiety, agitation, aggression, and social withdrawal are reduced because of the gardens. Ultimately, these patients used fewer medications.
I have noted a reduction in my stress level when tending to our yard, whether it be raking or trimming bushes. I have also experienced the same feeling when walking or just sitting outside. When outside with my children, I ask them to listen to the sound of birds and show them tulips that have just started pushing up through the ground. Nature has a way of sucking you in… you forget your worries, even for a brief moment. Being outside or watching a plant grow is clearly therapeutic. We should encourage the architects of long-term care facilities to include nature in their new facilities and our elders who are still at home to interact with nature as much as possible.