Raised vegetable garden

Raised gardens save the stress of bending and kneeling.

Gardening offers a productive way to exercise for people of all ages. Vitamin D from sunshine, bending, lifting, planting, pruning, and digging are good for body health while outdoor work clears the mind and watching nature do her magic is food for the soul.

Aging takes a toll in different ways for different people. Some people are more fortunate than others. For those who suffer more, gardening can not only help alleviate some of these discomforts by keep muscles flexible and toned, but can help offset the frustration of losing functionality. There are ways to make gardening easier for seniors — especially those with greater disabilities. Depending on how much strength or mobility is lost, here are some suggestions that can help.

Build raised garden beds to minimize bending and stooping. Heights can be calculated for wheelchairs, too.

If building a raised garden is not a practical option, consider putting together a garden in pots and containers that can be used in much the same way.

Pathways should be designed so they can be easily navigated by canes, walkers or wheelchairs.  Use ramps instead of stairs for level changes.

Tools can be stored close to gardening areas. Look for tools with specially designed grips that are easier for use with arthritic hands.

Make sure there are hose bibs, watering cans or hoses within easy reach. Watering cans should be small enough to be easily lifted when full.

Keep pathways smooth and unobstructed and provide plenty of seating in the garden. Benches and chairs can be part of the decorative landscape layout as well as offering a spot to rest. There are many gardening jobs can be done while seated. A potting bench with seating can also be useful.

At any age it is wise to wear sunscreen, a straw hat and garden gloves. As skin ages, it thins and becomes more vulnerable to sun damage and tearing. Gloves and long sleeved shirts or jackets can give skin an extra layer of armor. Keep extra protective clothing stored conveniently in nearby garden sheds.

It’s a good idea for aging bodies to go through some basic stretching exercises before setting to work to avoid strains and injuries.

Another handy tool for active seniors is a kneeling pad or wearable knee pads. There are little padded stools also made especially for gardening. For some people, knees can be bothersome starting in mid-life.

Ideal gardens to grow are those that are productive. Growing fruits and vegetables, herbs and showy flowers that are easily cut for indoor bouquets are more gratifying in smaller, defined areas. Plants that flower and fruit quickly can be the most satisfying – especially for people who haven’t done a lot of gardening in the past.

These garden adaptations mentioned above can also be helpful to younger people with disabilities. Gardening can be something wonderful for people trapped in aging or damaged bodies.  It can enrich their lives, give them something useful and productive to do and offer good exercise.  With a little effort, you can help design a garden for yourself as you age or put together a landscape that can help another senior reap the benefits of gardening. You can find more information on sites like the Arthritis Foundation.