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According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, depression impacts up to 6.5 million adults over 65. Research indicates that senior citizens who engage in gardening show increased levels of energy, improved physical, mental and emotional health, and an overall higher quality of life. On-site gardens at senior living facilities offer a therapeutic activity that connects residents to nature through the gardening process. Gardening is a simple way to get elders outside, getting fresh air, while staying active and interacting with one another.
The physical activity required in gardening has proven to promote physical health in the elderly. Involvement in gardening helps to improve cardiac health and immune system response, decrease heart rate and stress, and improve fine and gross motor skills, flexibility and body strength Research has also found that gardeners were more likely to consume vegetables and fruits than non gardeners, and evidence indicates that higher intakes of vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and some other types of chronic illnesses.
Gardening also provides a wide array of mental health benefits. Gardening is a relaxing activity that reduces stress, and helps to decrease feelings of sadness, depression, and social isolation. For many seniors transitioning to a senior living community, a garden provides a space for adjustment, helping to improve well-being and provide a sense of accomplishment.
In 2013, we installed four 4×8 raised bed gardens at Goddard House Assisted Living. Two of the raised bed gardens are dedicated to residents in the memory care unit. In 2015, Goddard House expanded the garden and obtained a special permit from the city of Brookline to house the first chicken coop for a non-residential facility. The coop houses six chickens, who in turn provide the residents with special companions. A farmer from Green City Growers visits Goddard House for weekly education and maintenance sessions for the vegetable gardens and provide monthly coop maintenance and clean-up.
Learn more about the benefits of gardening for the elderly by downloading our case study: The Health Benefits of On-Site Gardens at Senior Living Facilities for Senior Citizens.