At any age, gardening is one of the best activities we can do outdoors. It stimulates all of the senses, it connects us with nature and rewards us with beautiful flowers or delicious fruits and vegetables. Aside from all these benefits, gardening has several mental and physical benefits to people with Alzheimer’s. Research shows activities that engage the senses provides those with Alzheimer’s positive emotions that they may no longer experience regularly. Gardening therapy engages all of the senses, and can help people with Alzheimer’s rediscover their world.
Gardening is also an excellent way for aging bodies to get a moderate-intensity aerobic workout, shed calories and stay flexible, according to a Kansas State University study. That’s one reason why gardening remains popular with North Americans well into their golden years.
Benefits to Gardening:
Although those faced with Alzheimer’s may become more paranoid and withdrawn as the disease progresses, many long-term memories will be retained. Gardening therapy may help people recall those pleasant long-term memories and bring them back to a healthier time.
Other benefits to gardening include:
- Allowing loved ones to experience success, ultimately building confidence
- Boosting energy levels and promoting a good night’s sleep
- Creating a sense of community of gardening with others
- Creating a sense of purpose for a loved one faced with Alzheimer’s
- Great exercise for the mind and body
- Helping to maintain an existing skill set
While gardening may seem like a basic activity, there are a few things caregivers can do to ensure the activity is a pleasant experience for everyone:
- Avoid giving someone with Alzheimer’s any sharp gardening tools
- Build raised beds so that gardening is more accessible and enjoyable
- Create a garden in the shape of a figure eight, as dead end gardens can cause confusion
- Ensure all plants are non-toxic
- Garden early in the morning to avoid the hottest times of the day
- Keep it fun and light-hearted
- Provide adequate sunscreen and a hat to protect your loved one from the sun
- Try planting a container garden, to make the activity more accessible for a senior
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