As we join the Dominica Council on Ageing (DCOA) in the observance of the Month of the Elderly (September, 2020) let us examine some health benefits of gardening for seniors.

Here are the ten best benefits of gardening for seniors:

1.) Major Stress Reliever. There's something about gardening that can be very helpful for many people's mental health. One of the key benefits is stress relief. Gardening is a relatively relaxing activity, while still be stimulating both physically and mentally, so for many people it's the perfect hobby, combining work and play so it's not too much of either.

2.) Reduces Depression and Anxiety. For those suffering from either (or both) depression and anxiety, gardening can offer further benefits. Studies have shown that gardening is particularly effective in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Spending time interacting with nature is always restorative and calming, and helps regulating the emotions.

3.) Reduces loneliness. For many seniors dealing with and combating social isolation and loneliness is one of the bigger hurdles of retirement. Loneliness is linked with and even causes depression and sleeplessness and greatly increases a person's risk of developing dementia, as well as other conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Gardening at home gives people an opportunity to interact with neighbors or other people with the same hobby. It's something to do and a subject to talk about, which are hugely beneficial.

4.) Provides Exercise. That's a major benefit! For many, motivating ourselves to exercise is extremely difficult. Finding a specific activity or hobby you enjoy can be the perfect remedy for a lack of interest in physical activity. Gardening particularly is excellent for older people, as it's an outdoor activity that requires movement while not being overly strenuous or demanding.

5.) Stay close to nature. Even if you have absolutely no experience, getting into gardening could be the solution (or at least a helpful factor) in overcoming some of the struggles associated with post-retirement life. Nature is our friend – so we should reap the benefits!

6.) Increases serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that increases mood and feelings of calmness and peace. Some studies have even linked gardening to a reduction in symptoms of depression. One study found that contact with a certain bacteria in soil triggers the release of serotonin in the brain and works as a natural anti-depressant.

7.) Increases Mobility. In addition to being a great form of physical exercise, gardening can increase mobility and strength.

8.) Boost Brain Health. While no one knows what exactly causes Alzheimer's and how to prevent the disease, research has shown that positive life choices do have an impact on the risk of developing the disease. Gardening is one such lifestyle choice that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia.

9.) Reduces the Risk of Stroke. Gardening is a moderately intense exercise and can count towards the expert recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily.

10.) More Vitamin D. Being outside in a sunny garden can increase vitamin D levels, which has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

BONUS: Healthier Meals. And seniors can grow what they eat and eat what they grow. They can eat healthy meals and reduce their food bill!