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Simple gardening tips for those with limited mobility

24th April 2021


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

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 stairlifts or mobility aids to aid them in their home.

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

Use low-maintenance plants


Those who suffer from mobility problems should look to use plants that are low maintenance as they will bloom for longer and will generally flower again year after year.

Nikki Tilley, the 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.”

There are plenty of low maintenance plants that are perfect for all garden types and don’t require being planted at specific times of the year, find some of these below:

  • Hardy Hibiscus
  • Perennial Geranium
  • Daisy
  • Coneflower
  • Hosta
  • Ferns

Use the correct gardening tools


One way older people with mobility problems can enjoy their favourite hobby pain-free 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 lightweight and ergonomic tools.

The organisation said: “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 offers 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 suggests 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.”

Start small and work your way up


Whether you have a large or a small garden, if you have been gardening for a while or are just wanting to get started, it can be a good idea to start small and work your way up. Start with a few pots or small flower beds, and if you feel you are able to move to a bigger space then do so as you see fit. Nick, who is the blogger behind Two Thirsty Gardeners also recommends this and offers a few more suggestions below.

“For those who are new to gardening or have limited mobility the most important thing is to start with a small place. Trying to manage a whole garden all at once can be daunting and take more time and energy than most people have. Even a couple of large pots or a trug offer a great introduction to gardening. You’ll be amazed at how many things you can fit into a small space; you get to unleash your hidden creativity by designing a display within the container's boundaries, and you can change or introduce new plants throughout the seasons to get all year-round benefits and steadily develop those green fingers. Once you’ve mastered one small space then you’re ready to expand to the next one!”

Create wide pathways and accessible seating areas


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

“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. Seating provides a safe space for people to rest whilst still enjoying the beauty and tranquillity of their garden, they commented:

“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. You may feel like you aren’t doing a lot at the time, but the last thing you want to do is to feel achy and fatigued the next day as you won’t associate an enjoyable experience with your garden.

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.”

Avoid lifting heavy items


Gardening can often involve a lot of lifting and moving, and for those with limited mobility, this can often be a sticking point. One of the main points that Adam, who is from the blog Carrot Top Allotments, suggests keeping things simple to begin with and only moving easy to lift items.

“The first thing that comes to mind here is keeping things easy to lift and move. Bags of compost stick out to me as one of those things that can be very difficult to get hold of and move. Thankfully, delivery of such items is much more common and if you're able to get the compost into a position where you don't have to move it, then you're good to go, and you can dip into it a pot or tray at a time.”

Adam has great recommendations for those who struggle lifting heavy items and that is Coir. Adam explains a little more about Coir and how it is a great alternative for the garden: “Failing that, something that I am seeing a lot more usage of is coir. Coir is made from compressed coconut fibre and is peat-free. It comes in light blocks of varying sizes and when water is added, it can double or even quadruple in quantity. It's light, fluffy, good to work with, and it goes further than you think. Something I'd also take time into looking into, are things that make life easier for you in particular, and I don't think there's a one size fits all solution to this - a cup of tea and a ponder on how best to achieve what you want to achieve can help to future proof your gardening plans and help you to get the most enjoyment from gardening.”

Benefits of gardening for older people


As mentioned previously, there are many benefits linked to gardening as it has 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 a 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 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.

If you love getting out and about in your garden but are finding it increasingly hard to keep supple and active whilst doing so, then why not try some of these simple tips to help you continue doing what you love. To read similar stories, you can check take a look at the Handicare blog.

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