Gardening has become known by doctors, psychologists, and researchers alike to have powerful effects on the body and mind. The health benefits of gardening for seniors are even more significant in different ways. Gardening is empowering; it helps build physical strength, improves motor functioning, eases stress, and encourages positive mental well-being. This can be especially beneficial to seniors who have dementia, since gardening can improve cognitive function.
The benefits of gardening for seniors who have dementia include:
Improved cognitive function. A study published in the National Library of Medicine determined that engaging regularly in common gardening activities significantly improved cognitive function and memory in seniors with dementia.
Brain nerve growth. Low to moderate gardening activity improves levels of the brain nerve growth factors BDNF and PDGF, which are related to memory.
Mood regulation. In general, spending time in nature has been associated with improved emotion and mood regulation.
Increased happiness. Gardening is a low impact physical activity that provides us with moderate aerobic exercise, which increases the production of serotonin and dopamine — the happy hormones — in our bodies.
Mindfulness. Gardening encourages mindfulness because it engages all of the senses — smell, sight, sound, touch, and the special reward at the end: taste. Mindfulness practices have been shown to decrease symptoms of dementia due to the sense of calm the practice helps cultivate.
It is important to garden in a safe and responsible way, especially when working with seniors who have dementia. Be sure to have sun protection — in the form of hats, sunscreen, and long sleeves. Hydration is also important, so keep a bottle of water close by. Seniors who have dementia may have physical disabilities or limitations as well, which means that low to moderate gardening activities are appropriate. Light raking and digging, handling plants, pulling weeds, and planting seeds are all low impact activities.
If you are looking for home care services, please get in touch with us at Alegre Home Care. Home caregivers can help seniors who have dementia to plan and design their gardens, as well as facilitate gardening experiences. Contact us here at one of our Northern California locations.