I was speaking with a friend of mine that owns an Assisted Living Facility here in Florida and he was telling me about the plans to redo the landscaping around the facility. He had received a very good proposal from a very reputable landscape company and he was very proud of the project. “It’s going to be beautiful and I can’t wait to see it!” he told me with pride and expectation in his voice. I could see how excited he was as he described the different planting areas and the types of flowers, bushes and shrubbery that were to be used. “Our residents will really enjoy this; it’s really going to be something to see.”
As he showed me the diagram and pointed out the different planting areas, I noticed he had plans for a small garden with sitting areas. I was very impressed when he told me that area would be where his residents would do the planting and gardening themselves. He had plans to create a garden area where his residents would do all the work from start to finish. It was going to be the focus of the new garden club his activities director intended to start. I really like this idea and want to share some thoughts with everyone on gardening for seniors.
Not everyone enjoys working outdoors and getting their hands dirty, but it can be great therapy! Whether you own, manage or work in a Senior Facility or you care for an elderly person, gardening can provide hours of enjoyment. Here are some suggestions:
- Form a gardening club to announce the project-this will tell you the interest level among your residents
- Choose an area that your residents can landscape—you may want your maintenance department to do the heavy prep work.
- Let the residents design the beds—raised beds are always better for elderly so they can sit comfortably as they plant and reduce bending and stooping.
- Allow them to choose the plants and flowers—don’t forget seasonal vegetables!
- Take a field trip to a local nursery to choose plants—a great outing!
- Have the residents do the planting
- Develop a schedule to weed, fertilize and water (volunteers)
- If you are fortunate enough to live in a state like Florida, you can enjoy being outside most of the year and gardening is a good reason to get outside!
- Gardening can be good exercise and incorporates flexibility and balance from stooping or squatting. (take care that your residents are physically capable before starting)
- Studies have shown gardening reduces stress and promotes relaxation—this can help residents who struggle with sleep problems.
- Gardening can also be a social activity and promote teamwork and promote bonding.
- It can also promote a sense of accomplishment and pride which is often lost as we age.
- Gardening can also give a person purpose and make them feel needed as they become caretakers of the plants.
- You will have fresh seasonal vegetables for cooking if you include them!
- Keep an eye on your residents so that the exercise value of gardening doesn’t quickly turn into strains, pulls or falls—it’s easy to overdo it!
- In states like Florida, the sun is intense so make sure the gardening is done early morning or late afternoon and there are shady areas for rest. Heat exhaustion and sunburn are always a threat here in Florida so make sure every stays hydrated and covered!
- Make sure tools are appropriate for the residents’ capabilities and are brightly colored so they are easily found if mislaid.
- Keep pathways clear and tools picked up to avoid falls.
- Pair individuals with memory issues with someone who can help keep them on task and be sure they are working in a secure area.
- Use raised flowerbeds or planters to help with back strains.
Gardening will certainly remind most of your residents of home and hopefully help them feel more at “home” in their senior facility. It’s a great activity for those who enjoy gardening and it may also give individuals who have never had a garden an opportunity to experience something new. Keep in mind the planting, watering and enjoying the beauty are the fun parts of gardening so you may need your maintenance crew to take on the weeding! Creating a garden space for your residents will take some planning and work but I believe you will find the benefits and the enjoyment well worth the effort.
If would like a list Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider www.seniorfacilityfinder.com.
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