Gardening is Especially Beneficial for the Elderly or Unwell
Horticultural therapy is an important aspect of my 2015 feature garden at the Royal Adelaide Show however it is not really an easy one to portray. The act of gardening itself is good for all ages and even just being in a garden, or having a view from inside out into a garden, is especially beneficial for the elderly or those who are unwell. In my display garden I have used a screen of an elderly couple sitting on a bench to symbolise that. Either side of the bench are larger pots massed with plants specifically chosen to have therapeutic value in one way or another.
While people are fit and active it is easy to garden, however as ability and mobility decreases gardening can be focused on accessible planters such as raised beds or containers. Growing plants at a height which is easily reached when standing or sitting is the key. Having stable secure seating outside in the garden and good paths leading there also attracts people outside where they can sit and simply watch what’s going on, and there is always something to look at in a garden with all the birds, bees, insects and leaves.
The type of plants that are grown in a garden can also make a difference and choosing plants which stimulate the senses and trigger memories is wonderful for the elderly. Sensory plants are also important for children and younger people who benefit from sensory stimulation. For example for the sense of touch using soft plants such as lamb’s ears; for the sense of smell any of the scented herbs and the scented leaf geraniums, to pineapple sage and lemon scented verbena; for the sense of taste strawberries or cherry tomatoes will delight; for the sense of sound attract birds into the garden and even having grassy foliage which move and rustle in the wind; and finally to appeal to the sense of sight you just need to make sure that the plants are healthy and have some flowers.
When elderly residents are no longer able to get outside they can still have a view into a lovely garden and this will make them feel happier and give them something to look at. Picking flowers from a garden and having them inside also helps to bring the outside in, and something with a scent like vase of roses can make such a difference. It is wonderful to see more aged care facilities recognising the value of having nice garden spaces around their buildings and allowing their residents to get out into these spaces, as well as having the inside rooms look out onto them. By doing this their residents will be happier and healthier and feel younger.