Dominican Home Gardener strip
Dominican Home Gardener strip

In our last issue of the Dominica Gardener we mentioned the many benefits of gardening for senior citizens. These included:

So now, let's look at ten ways to make gardening easier and safer for older persons.

  1. Use Raise Your Beds. One of the main reasons gardening becomes troublesome for seniors is all the bending over and kneeling gardeners have to do. Raised beds handily solve that problem. Added benefits include better soil drainage, less required space, and improved soil quality.

  2. Reduce Your Lawn. Maintaining a grass lawn is a lot of work. Some older adults prefer to concentrate on perennials, herbs, or vegetables. A good solution, when you have a lawn that needs constant care, is to reduce the amount of grass that needs tending. Or find someone to do the hard work.

  3. Consider Vertical Gardening. When plants grow on poles and trellises, they're much easier to tend. Cucumbers, beans, squash, and tomatoes all make good vertical garden plants. It also helps eliminate some of the walking involved in gardening for older adults who might have mobility problems.

  4. Learn Proper Form. Kneeling for weeding, some gardeners use a kneeler stool. Others find them to be cumbersome. If you're a 'kneeler', make sure you're following proper ergonomic form so you don't strain your ligaments. If you squat, keep your heels on the ground. If you kneel, try putting just one knee down.

  5. Use Proper Tools. Don't use tools whose handles are too short. Stooping over may hurt your back.

  6. Take Proper Precautions. Carry a cell phone when you're in the garden. That way if you need help, you're not stranded. Don't over-work- rest then start again. Ask the young men and women at home to the heavy work.

  7. Watch the Sun. Garden before 10 AM or after 4 PM when the sun is weaker and temperatures may be cooler. Even if you do garden during safer hours, however, it's important to wear proper sun protection. That includes a hat, sunglasses, a long-sleeve shirt, and pants. The shirt and pants can help protect you from not just the sun but also from insects.

  8. Check with Your Doctor. Since gardening is a type of physical activity, consult with your doctor if you have had a change in your health recently. He or she can help you understand any limitations you may have.

  9. Bring Plenty of Water to Prevent Dehydration. Wear sturdy shoes, a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and gardening gloves. Add comfortable outdoor benches or chairs under shady areas for a convenient place to rest during gardening and a nice spot to sit and admire one's handiwork.

  10. Avoid injury. Bend at the knees and hips to avoid injury. Move from one activity to another to avoid straining any particular muscle group. Paint tool handles in neon colors or wrap them in brightly colored tape so they're easy to find if dropped.

(Sources: "Growing Connections: Gardening with Seniors by June Fletcher. "Five Ways to Make Gardening Easier for Older Adults" from "Five Star- Seniour Living")