Gardening is an activity that many seniors enjoy which has multiple benefits. In addition to the general satisfaction of watching your plants grow and flourish, gardening is also a good form of exercise and can be a morale booster as well. However, as safe as gardening may seem, there are many precautions that seniors need to take while they are out in the yard. Following these tips will keep you out of harms way so that you can tend to your plants with confidence.
Keeping Yourself Covered
What you wear when you go out to the garden is important. Gardening can expose your skin to chemicals, sharp tools, bugs and harmful UV rays so you’ll need to dress accordingly. You may also want to keep your eyes shielded. The CDC recommends protecting your ears when you use any machinery citing that the noise can potentially be harmful to your hearing.
Gloves are a must. Gardening can expose your hands to chemicals and contaminants, and if you cut yourself, you can put yourself at risk for developing an infection.
Wearing long sleeves and long pants are advisable if the weather permits to protect yourself from ticks and other insects. You should aim to wear a sturdy pair of boots that are both protective and comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
You should use sunscreen and insect repellent wherever your skin is exposed and also wear a hat with a brim that can shield your face from the sun.
Take it Slow
Gardening can be more strenuous than you may realize. If you haven’t been outside in a while and haven’t been getting regular exercise, your best bet is to pace yourself and do a little at a time. The NWF recommends changing both your position and activity every 20 to 30 minutes and taking a 10-minute break between switching. Tending to your garden can involve a lot of bending, lifting, and pulling which can leave you sore the following day if you overdo it, so it is important to listen to your body and slow down whenever you feel you need to.
- Tetanus lives in soil so if you have not had a shot in over ten years, you should address that before digging in.
- Always stay hydrated when you are out in the heat for extended periods of time. Before you head outside, you should also have a snack for nourishment and energy if you haven’t eaten recently.
- Avoid ladders and climbing up on anything that could prove to be unsteady. Do not put yourself in a situation where you are at elevated risk of falling and getting injured.
- Pay close attention to any sign of heat-related illness which could include dizziness, rapid heartbeat, confusion, and nausea.
If You Have a Disability Or Are Physically Limited
Before attempting to garden, you should speak to your physician if there is any concern that may impair your ability to do so safely. Arthritis may make it difficult to grasp or use certain tools. Use what is most comfortable for you. If you are on any types of medication, be sure you are familiar with the side effects. If a medicine you are taking makes you drowsy, do not put yourself into any position where you are at risk of falling and getting hurt.
Raised Gardening Beds
A raised bed is a good way to alleviate some of the strain that can come along with plants that are lower and close to the ground. With a rectangular shaped planting bed, you can find a chair or board so that you can sit and garden from a more comfortable, less strenuous position. Ideally, the width should be about arms length so that you can access the plants without risking losing your balance as you reach across.
Vertical gardens are also more convenient for seniors who may be less agile and have a harder time bending and moving around as much. This type of gardening is ideal for vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, zucchini as well as different kinds of melons. You can tend to these gardens from your feet without needing to crouch all the way down to the ground. Some other added benefits of a vertical garden are the fact that they take up very little space and also get more sunshine than regular beds.
Create a Garden that You Can Maintain
Certain types of plants can require a lot of time and maintenance. Some will need a lot of water and you may not be equipped to carry a hose or a heavy watering can around. Before you decide what you will have in your garden, be sure to research what the upkeep will consist of and determine whether or not you’re physically capable of handling it yourself.
Just in Case
If you are going out to the garden alone, you should have access to either a cell phone or a medical alert system. Doing so will ensure that you can get the necessary assistance if you fall or feel like you may be suffering from any ailment caused by the heat.
Creating a garden can turn into one of your favorite hobbies and can even improve the way you eat if you can grow fresh fruits and vegetables of your own. You will feel motivated and encouraged by the progress of your plants and will also feel better physically. Sticking to good safety habits in the process will help to ensure that you can enjoy your garden for many years.