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Simple gardening tips for those with limited mobility

31st July 2018

Gardening is one of the most popular pastimes for older people and some research has even found that it helps exercise the mind and provides stimulation for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

While a lot of people take gardening for granted as they can easily get out and get their fingers dirty in the garden, it is not quite so easy for older people with mobility problems who need specially designed stair lifts for their home.

Arthritis and back problems are common problems that can impair people’s mobility and can take the pleasure out of gardening. There are, however, lots of simple tips people with limited mobility can follow to keep it as accessible as possible.

Use low-maintenance plants & raised flower beds

Those with mobility problems should look to use plants which are low maintenance as they will bloom for a long time and will generally flower again for a second season.

Nikki Tilley, Senior Editor at Gardening Know How, says, “Gardens should be simple with low-maintenance plants. Use raised beds or containers whenever possible, as these are easier to manoeuvre around.”

By using raised beds and by raising the height of the soil so gardeners can work comfortably from seating or standing will increase independence.

Use the correct gardening tools

One way older people with mobility problems can enjoy their favourite hobby again is by using the vast array of gardening aids that are available.

Thrive, a leading charity in the UK that uses gardening to change the lives of disabled people, recommends those with mobility problems use light weight and ergonomic tools.

“Plastic tools often weigh a lot less than metal tools. Use small watering cans or bottle top roses screwed onto plastic drinking bottles.

“Use ergonomic tools. Increasing the size of handles by wrapping foam around them can help if you have a weak grip. Peta offer a range of hand tools with an arm cuff, providing greater support.”

There are forks, trowels, cultivators and even foldable trolleys that can be bought which will help older people in their garden.

Another tip that Thrive suggest gardeners with mobility problems follow is to keep tools nearby the garden.

“They should be easily accessible and not have to be carried over long distances. It may be easier to move your equipment around the garden in relay fashion, taking your chair out first, then your tools.”

Wide pathways and seats

Nikki Tilley from Gardening Know How says wide pathways should certainly be a consideration people take into account if they are designing their garden for older age.

“Include pathways that provide easy access for individuals using walkers, canes or wheelchairs.”

Pathways should be even and have non-slip surfaces, whilst being around three-foot wide with a large turning circle. Gravel pathways are not a good idea as they can be difficult to navigate for wheelchair users and gardeners with sticks.

Another recommendation from Thrive is to incorporate seating in the garden.

“Strategic seating can help with moving around the garden, giving you rest areas and the ability to work from a seated position.”

Make sure you pace yourself

Whilst older gardeners may want to get a job in the garden done quickly, it is important to pace yourself.

According to Thrive, “Stick to one job at a time, have frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Stop work before you get too tired. A good way to monitor this is to set an alarm on a watch/phone or even an egg timer for every 15-30 minutes, then have a break. Sticking to one job at a time makes gardening more pleasurable.”

Benefits of gardening for older people

As mentioned previously, there are a number of benefits linked to gardening as it is been found to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

There are lots of other benefits as Gardening Know How’s editor Nikki Tilley, explains, “Gardening promotes both physical and mental health benefits for all ages, but especially for older gardeners. It helps develop range of motion, promotes hand-eye coordination and increases strength and balance. Just being outside in the fresh air can do wonders for relieving stress, reducing depression and stimulating the senses. Growing and nurturing plants often leads to a sense of pride and accomplishment too.

“Gardening connects you with others as well as with nature. This healthy hobby is one that can be enjoyed and practised by everyone in the family and at any age – you’re never too young or old to start.”

Thrive, the gardening charity for those with disabilities, says there are lots of other benefits:

  • It’s a great form of light physical exercise and will help to keep you healthy.
  • There are loads of psychological benefits including independence; a sense of achievement; a joy of nurturing; along with all your senses being stimulated.
  • It helps keep your mind active – it’s amazing the skills that can be developed and how much you’ll learn by tending an area, reflecting on what’s worked and why, planning for what’s ahead, and coming across new plants and creatures.
  • It gives a feeling of being at one with nature (the 'biophilia’ effect). There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests just looking out onto green surroundings, having your hands in soil, and having access to nature improves our physical and mental wellbeing.
  • It’s an excuse to socialise – why not invite someone round to enjoy your space with you? Sit back and have a cup of tea and a chat in lovely surroundings.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.