Dear Donna:

My mom has always loved to garden, but she is now struggling with mobility issues. She also takes a few different medications that make her more susceptible to dehydration and heat.

What can we do to help her keep enjoying her favorite activity safely?

The Fletcher Family in Holland, MI

How Seniors Can Garden Safely

Dear Fletcher Family,

It’s great that your mom wants to keep up with gardening. It is a wonderful, healthy activity. Not only is it a way to get exercise, but being outside can increase vitamin D levels. The activity can also reduce dementia risk and nurture the spirit.

With any strenuous outdoor activity, however, some precautions are necessary. Here are tips your mom can follow to stay safe and healthy when gardening.

4 Ways to Your Senior Gardener Can Stay Healthy

  1. Customize gardening for mobility issues.

Kneeling to plant seeds or pull weeds can be hard on the knees, hips, and back. Instead, try raised garden beds, which can either be purchased from home-and-garden supply shops or built DIY-style.

Indoor pots and window boxes are another option, especially for colder climates or smaller living spaces. They can be set on a table and accessed while sitting down.

  1. Use safe gardening techniques.

Gardening often involves repetitive motions, which can cause irritation in tendons and nerves. Prevent strain by rotating activities every 15 minutes, with a short rest in-between. Make sure your wrist is relaxed and your grip is not too tight on your gardening tools. Wear gardening gloves to prevent blisters and skin irritation, as well as to protect from things like pesticides, thorns, or bug bites.

  1. Make sure to use tools correctly.

Never use bare hands for digging in the soil where sharp objects or stinging insects may be buried. Use proper tools, such as trowels and hand rakes, and make sure they are in good working condition.

Look for pruners or shears with safety locks. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions for using garden tools.

  1. Use proper outdoor protection.

For your health and safety, it is important not to lose track of time while gardening. Take precautions to avoid dehydration, sunstroke, and other risks.

  • Garden earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Always use sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) when going outside.
  • Wear a hat with a sufficient brim to shade your face.
  • Use sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes and prevent eye strain.
  • Stay hydrated; keep a water bottle outside with you and drink from it often, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with sugar or alcohol.
  • Take frequent breaks indoors or in the shade.
  • If you have diabetes or other conditions that can affect the nerves, make sure to wear well-fitting gloves and shoes. Check yourself after gardening to make sure you have no cuts or scrapes that went unnoticed.

I hope this information helps your mom continue her favorite pastime!

Best wishes,

Donna

Encourage Physical and Mental Activity for Senior Loved Ones

Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care for seniors across Michigan. Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland, for example, provides numerous exercise and socializing opportunities, including wellness seminars. Contact us today to schedule a tour.