Gardening for Stress Relief

By Susan Littlefield

You are never too old to reap the benefits of gardening. A new study had shown that cultivating plants is a great way for the elderly to relieve stress. And these anti-stress benefits are not simply the result of the physical exercise gardening provides.

Researchers in the United Kingdom surveyed 94 people between the ages of 50 and 88 [50-something editor's note: Whoa! Who's calling 50 elderly?] who either participated in an indoor exercise program or gardened. Both groups had similar levels of social support. They found that the gardening group reported significantly less stress than the exercising group.

The researchers speculated that these lower stress levels were the result of the ″contribution of engagement with nature and psychological restoration″ that gardening affords and pointed the way to using gardening as ″a health promoting behavior later in life.″

If you are a senior gardener who wants to keep gardening but is facing some physical challenges, or you want to help a senior stay active in the garden, try some of the suggestions for growing an accessible garden from Grace Young in her article for New Mobility magazine, Way to Grow: The Accessible Garden. For walking gardeners, she suggests using a Garden Kneeler bench to provide help rising from a kneeling position or to use as a bench. She points out that raised beds make it possible for gardeners seated in wheelchairs or scooters to cultivate the soil and suggests user-friendly tools for aging gardeners that are easy on backs, wrists, and hands.

To read an abstract of the research on stress relief, go to HortTechnology. To read the article on accessible gardening, go to: New Mobility.

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