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5 Benefits of Gardening in My Senior Years

The front garden aims to become as beautiful as it used to be.

The front garden aims to become as beautiful as it used to be.

Gardening was never on my list of hobbies. Yard space did not appeal to me when I considered owning a home. So how did I become interested in gardening in my senior years?

My mother gets most of the credit. When I moved in with her in 2012 to become her caregiver, seldom did someone visit without mentioning how beautiful her yard used to be, when she was active. She planted both flowers and vegetables. After her death, I considered her garden to be a part of her legacy.

Although my mother’s passing left me with more leisure time, gardening did not become a hobby; not until health and safety restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required me to stay at home. Being homebound stirs up the desire, even in a 70-something woman, for changes in her surroundings.

Senior Gardening

In this article, I'm going to discuss five ways in which gardening has directly improved my life during my senior years.

1. Learning a New Skill

“Studies show that when seniors learn a new skill . . . it strengthens connection within the brain and it keeps dementia at bay.” (Twin Rivers Senior Living)

My tea garden is my pride and joy. I’m growing a variety of plants which double as seasonings and teas: lemon grass, rosemary, basil, peppermint, Mexican mint, tarragon and turmeric. My gardening coach has been teaching me how to prepare the soil, using manure. He does the planting, while I take the minor responsibilities of weeding and watering. I was surprised to learn that I can give the plants too much water; that if the soil is constantly wet, they are unable to breathe. I have also learned to read the discoloration of leaves as a sign that the plants have too little or too much water.

My mother started a spinach patch which is still thriving. I have learned how to harvest the leaves above the point where they join the root so that new growth occurs. My first batch of okras are blooming and I am amazed at how quickly they thrive in the hot dry season. By the way, there are only two seasons for the Caribbean gardener: dry season and rainy season.

Gardening is my new topic to learn and talk about. Not only do I want to learn the details about the uses and benefits of the plants, my brain is constantly at work on ideas for landscaping the flower garden, to make my yard beautiful again.

My very first okras.

My very first okras.

2. Daily Activity

“Contrary to popular belief, weakness and poor balance are actually linked to inactivity, rather than age.” (Sam Wylie-Harris, BT)

Not often enough, I walk for exercise. Sometimes I go for an early morning swim. When I walk or swim depends largely on my energy level plus my mood. However, rendezvousing with my plants, pulling a weed here and there, checking the soil for moisture or dryness is a daily affair. I'm committed, and I recommend gardening for other inactive seniors.

Bending, weed-pulling, stretching, swinging the machete, raking the leaves all combine to qualify for some form of low-level aerobics; therefore, it’s safe to say that daily gardening provides me a daily dose of mild activity. Were it not for my garden, many early mornings would be spent lying in bed feeling achy; instead, I get up (even if not completely ache-less) eager to see what new sprout nature engineered during the night. Depending on the plants’ need for water, an afternoon session may be necessary.

3. Connecting With Nature

“Studies have shown that getting to spend time around the natural world can give seniors’ immune systems a major boost.” (Companions for Seniors)

Fresh air and sunshine feed my physical energy in the morning, and they awaken a sense of gratitude for the blessing of a new day. Having experienced the ill effects of Vitamin D deficiency when I lived abroad, I appreciate the sun’s warmth on my body as the day heats up. Looking up at the blackbirds chirping in the apple tree, and hearing the roosters crow to wake up the late sleepers, lend a sense of enchantment to the garden setting. My gardening routine in the morning usually ends with a pluck of selected leaves, for my morning cup of tea.

Rosemary: my favorite plant fragrance

Rosemary: my favorite plant fragrance

4. Homegrown Aromatherapy

“One touch of rosemary and you'll be in seventh heaven . . . Run the palm of your hand over the evergreen-like foliage and then hold your hand up to your nose. You might not want to wash after that—the fragrance is that good!” (Luke Miller, Master Gardener)

Watering my tea garden bed in the morning or afternoon might well be a ceremony. I walk slowly and allow a few sprinkles from the hose, resembling the dew of heaven, to fall on each plant. The leaves diffuse a familiar but indescribable aroma. I inhale the fumes of scented energy and exhale the stresses of life.

My favorite, the rosemary, needs no pressure to perfume the air. One stem on my desk infuses clarity into the atmosphere while I work. At night, laying it on my night stand, provides the best nighttime fragrance.

Spinach plants climbing the fence. Mexican mint in the foreground.

Spinach plants climbing the fence. Mexican mint in the foreground.

5. Something to Give

“Giving not only makes you a happier person, it is also good for your health. A broad spectrum of research has led to the conclusion that generosity and better health, even among the sick and elderly, are interconnected with each other.” (Rambo College)

Gardening provides something for me to give. It makes me happy when visitors leave with a gift of something from my garden, especially if they asked for it: for example, a sprig of rosemary or lemon grass, a piece of mint with roots fit for planting. On occasions, I have packaged spinach leaves in Ziploc bags and taken them for older folk. Sometimes gifts of sugar apples and bananas (fruit of my mother's labors) are available. I get the satisfaction of following in the footsteps of my mother, grandmothers, aunts and great aunts who always seemed to have something to give—even if the gift was small.

One afternoon when I visited an older lady who used to be my mother’s friend, I presented her with some peppermint leaves. She was grateful beyond my expectation. It had been years, she said, since she had touched or smelled fresh mint and she was ecstatic. As often happens, joy boomeranged.

© 2020 Dora Weithers


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 01, 2020:

Thanks, Lora. I can really do with feeling better. I believe that the exercise and the fragrances from the plant will really help.

Lora Hollings on August 31, 2020:

I have always loved gardening. There's something magical in watching things grow and being able to share nature's bounty with others. And it is a good way to maintain both our physical and mental health. Your wonderful article, Ms. Dora, about all the benefits of gardening will inspire many to take up this great hobby. You will eat better, feel better and probably sleep better too!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 30, 2020:

Marlene, thanks for reading. I've been learning much from you about gardening and cooking. Thanks to you also.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 30, 2020:

I enjoy gardening, but I never analyzed why. Your article explains the benefits of gardening in a way I never realized before now. I enjoy using fresh herbs when I cook. Everything seems to taste better. And, I absolutely love your tip about placing a sprig of rosemary at my bedside. I have done that with lavender but never thought about doing it with rosemary. Thanks!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 24, 2020:

Thanks, Mona. Those little Ziploc bags are my joy. I appreciate your encouragement.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 24, 2020:

Thanks, Brenda. Not perfect but satisfactory for now. My mother left me a good start. Do try the rosemary.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on August 23, 2020:

The rosemary is lovely. The idea of growing it for its fragrance is an inspiration for me because I don't have a green thumb, but a woman takes care of my garden so they thrive. I also love the idea of growing edibles so you can put some in a ziploc bag and give them to visitors. As always, Ms. Dora, you inspire.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 23, 2020:

Ms Dora,

Sounds like you have the perfect herb garden.

I usually just plant flowers but the rosemary sounds like a welcome addition.

Glad to see you have caught the gardening bug like your mother.

It can be quite rewarding.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 18, 2020:

Thanks, Nithya. I begin to enjoy them before I consume, them. Just knowing that I picked them from my garden gives me satisfaction.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 18, 2020:

Thank you for sharing the benefits of gardening with us. The teas, herbs and vegetables must be extra delicious and healthy when it Is from your garden.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 14, 2020:

Thanks for insisting on sharing your comment. I appreciate your input. I hope that your DenGarden browser (or whatever is the problem) will be fixed soon. It's certainly not your fault.

Alyssa on August 13, 2020:

This is a beautiful article, Dora! I also love gardening. For me, it just brings a sense of calm and when I'm finished, I feel like I've been productive. While I enjoy being outdoors, my heart lies with my indoor plants. :)

(Also, I apologize for not being in my Hubpages account. For some reason, when it reroutes me to DenGarden, it signs me out and won't let me sign in. I still wanted to share my comment with you, though. Have a wonderful day!)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 12, 2020:

Thanks, Rochelle. Best to you also with your gardening. God bless our Moms!

Rochelle Ann De Zoysa from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on August 12, 2020:

Wow! I enjoyed reading :) I have been doing a bit of gardening thanks to my mom :) She keeps bringing plants and it is interesting to learn about them. Different soils, mixing with cocopeat and charcoal :) Looking forward to read more :) Take care and may God bless you !

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 10, 2020:

Marie, it's obvious that you're sold on gardening. Thanks for sharing your encouraging views. I know that you'll do the best yo can where you are.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 10, 2020:

I agree 100% with everything you have written, Dora. Having been raised on a farm, gardening is in my blood.

Florida gardening is quite different from that of Michigan. Presently, I'm at a location that doesn't have private yard space; however, that will probably not stop me.

I personally enjoy the colors and shapes of the flowers and leaves. Plants give off oxygen, so when you bend to pull a weed or make a harvest, you get a rush of pure air, vital to health and longevity.

Keep up the good work! Eden was a garden, you know. So, tending a garden is a primal calling.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 10, 2020:

Bill, it would be fun for you too. Warning: It takes a lot of your time, and it seems you are pretty busy.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on August 09, 2020:

Interesting, educational, and sounds like fun, Dora. Thanks for listing the benefits. I might have to give a try.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 08, 2020:

Thanks, Lorna. I also can relate to your charming comment, "My garden makes me smile." More enjoyable gardening to you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 08, 2020:

Cheryl, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate you.

Lorna Lamon on August 08, 2020:

I couldn't think of a more relaxing way to spend the day than being in the garden. Mine is still a work in progress, however, we are beginning to see the results of all the planting and weeding we have been doing.

I have always had a vegetable patch and there is something very satisfying about growing your own vegetables. I can relate to the benefits you mention Dora, mainly my garden makes me smile. Great article.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on August 07, 2020:

This is inspirational. Thank you again.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 07, 2020:

Linda, thanks for your kind sentiments. My garden journey has just seriously begun. I look forward to finding even more benefits.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 07, 2020:

This is a lovely article, Dora. Your garden sounds and looks beautiful. Thank you for sharing all the gardening benefits that you've noticed.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 07, 2020:

Well, it is very fascinating.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 07, 2020:

Thanks, Mary. You said it very well, and I know it's true. I plan to experience the fascination you talk about.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 07, 2020:

Gardening is a fantastic engagement. It connects us to living things, and watching these plants grow is a source of fascination.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 07, 2020:

Dolores, thanks for your beautiful comment. Being stuck here in the Caribbean has its benefits. I've found much to do. Trying to make the best of it.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 07, 2020:

I love the concept of a tea garden! Gardening keeps us fit - we have to move in so many ways! And out into the fresh air and sunshine which is so good for our physical and mental health. And being at home so much these days, I can just sit on my porch and look at our beautiful yard - it's a lot easier to stay happy at home when it looks so pretty.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Thanks,Devika. I also have the goal of clean and attractive for my garden. And I agree with you; it's stress reliever.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Thanks,Liz. It's the idea of finding meaningful to do at home, since I cannot travel. It's also something to show my grandchildren when we FaceTime. It's been fun so far.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Linda, the elegant beauty of the deer is worth having the forest. That's amazing! The spinach can also grow flat, but whenever it gets the chance to climb, it will. So far, I've learned that the leaves get smaller when it climbs. I have a few stalks which just sit on the ground and prefer to get fat than get tall. Thanks for your beautiful comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 06, 2020:

I like the gardening approach it gives me a less stressful lifestyle and I can make the garden look clean and attractive.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 06, 2020:

At a time of great negativity, it's lovely to read an article, which looks for the good in present circumstances. I was encouraged to read that your interest in gardening has developed as a result of COVID-19 and the changes to our lifestyles, which have been forced upon us.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 06, 2020:

Dora, what a wonderful, inspirational article. I love gardening (and it's a good thing that I do because we have 1 1/2 acres, although I'll admit that half of that is forest). We have deer so cannot grow vegetables, but the aromatic herbs, like rosemary, are safe from their nibbling.

I do not like the taste (actually the texture) of okra, but it is a beautiful plant. I had never seen one before.

Your spinach is something I am unfamiliar with. Where I live spinach is a short annual that grows like lettuce.

Your garden is stunning. I do hope that you will continue to share photos. I'm sure your mother is pleased that you are continuing her legacy. Blessings to you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Flourish, for sharing your father's experience. Sounds like I'd envy him too. The HOA must have decided that they couldn't win against his passion. Good for him.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 06, 2020:

My father has a very productive garden that is enviable, as his father was a farmer. He does not care that it really takes up nearly the entire back yard and the homeowners association isn’t pleased. They are tired of sending an old man letters. He ignores the letters and offers them apples and a few tomatoes. The complaint letters have stopped. It’s kept him young as well as occupied. Plus, it is cost-saving. Your spinach is beautiful. Wow!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Thanks, Umesh. Thanks for affirming how refreshing and pleasant gardening could be. Plus, the camaraderie of team workers has its own joys.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Thanks, Ambrie. Gardening is surely worth a try. Some do it sooner, some later. My turn now, maybe yours later.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Thanks, Sally. I admire you for planting tomatoes. I have this notion that they're temperamental and difficult to grow. When I feel confident enough, I may try some. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Thanks, Pam. Let's keep doing what we can for as long as we can. That's the idea.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2020:

Shauna, thanks for the ideas. Never thought of recipes for teas but that's a noble venture. Will think about it.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 05, 2020:

I do not have a garden but there is one park near my residence where some of the old people including me go and do some volunteering gardening and upkeeping work. It is so refreshing and pleasant. We pass 2-3 hours there. It is great feeling. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share it with hubbers. Stay blessed.

Ambrie Anders on August 05, 2020:

It’s interesting to note this varied range of benefits from gardening - thank you for sharing. Although I cannot claim to have green fingers, I can identify with being motivated and enjoying keeping up your Mother’s legacy.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on August 05, 2020:

Love this one MsDora, I have been growing tomatoes, lettuce and a lots of herbs during the lock-down. I was only today peering into the depth of our tomato bushes to see the little green fruit changing to red. I even have some black tomatoes which are growing so tall that we call them the Triffids plants. It has been a joy to be able to pick fresh mint and parsley. So glad the lock-down has given you something so pleasant to focus on, love gardening. Stay safe.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 05, 2020:

I love all the positives seniors can get out of gardening and learning a new skill also. There are so many good benefits from gardening. I cannot physically do what I use to do but sure wish I could. This is a great article, especially for seniors, Dora.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 05, 2020:

Dora, you're welcome. Some day I'll own a good land for gardening.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 05, 2020:

Dora, for someone who just recently began gardening, yours certainly is flourishing! I love that you're growing plants with which to make tea. What a beautiful idea!

I, too, love the smell of rosemary. It's actually one of my favorite herbs. I love it in chicken and pork dishes. Another favorite herb of mine is dill. It's so fresh tasting and smelling.

I hope you post more articles about your gardening adventures. I'd love to see more pics. Perhaps you could even include some recipes for tea.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

Eric, weeding and watering are my responsibilities. It means a lot to me, that we do some of the same things (smile).

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 05, 2020:

Marvelous, it took a bit to get to commenting --- I went out and watered and weeded, thanks.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

Thanks,Bill. I'm far from being the expert that you are, but I intend to follow in your steps as far as I can.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

Carolyn, I think you will love it. It is worth the time.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

Thanks, Miebakagh. I think I like gardening enough to keep up with it. My fear is that I'll become as attached to it as my mother, who didn't want to leave her garden long enough to do any long term travel.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

Thanks,Peggy. Sounds exciting! My yard has lizards too, and there was one in my house last night. I hope it has gone back outdoors.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

John, I plan to be as continual with my garden as you are with yours. It surely feels good to be involved.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2020:

Ann, it seems that you are doing a fantastic job with your garden, and enjoying it too. Thanks for sharing. I want to copy your habit of keeping new additions indoors before you plant.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 05, 2020:

I agree completely! I love gardening, every stage of it, from preparing the soil to planting the seed to watching them grow to harvesting....all please me immensely.

Enjoy, my friend, and may your harvest be bountiful always.

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on August 05, 2020:

I clearly need to spend more time gardening!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 05, 2020:

Hi Dora, keep up with it and keep fit. I like the herbs you plant for teas. I used either as teas or ingredients in cooking.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 05, 2020:

You have enumerated five excellent reasons to garden. Just the joy of being in nature is good enough for me. Every day looks somewhat different from the day before as blooms open, veggies mature, butterflies flit past, and birds keep an eye on what goes on. We refresh the birdbath each day so that freshwater is available to our avian friends. Our resident lizards watch us as we move about in what they consider their territory. It can be fun!

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on August 05, 2020:

I am glad you have embraced gardening MsDora, continue your Mother’s legacy. I have always grown some herbs, vegetables and fruit trees. It is a great way to stay active and also supply some of your own food while giving away any excess. Thank you for sharing.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 05, 2020:

I voted 'outdoor activity' but I wanted to tick 'things to share' as well!

I love gardening, more so since I've retired. The garden at this bungalow I bought about 4 years ago was in such a mess; now I'm proud of how we've turned it around with lots of digging, weeding, planting and organising. Hard work but oh so satisfying, isn't it?

I have herbs (sage, rosemary, mints, bay, thyme). The sage bush is from a cutting I took from France. Like you, I love rosemary - such a beautiful aroma. It's also the name of my sister so I think of her every time I look at the plant.

I also have fruit trees and shrubs - plum, raspberry, gooseberry, and tomatoes. The crops have been very good this year so far.

When people give me miniature rose bushes in a pot, I keep them indoors for a while then plant them out in the border. They usually thrive and then I have a reminder of various friends too. There are also huge hydrangea plants, at the back and another two at the front, with massive pink flowers. I love the splash of colour.

I could go on and on but I think that's enough about me.

It's great that you've linked your gardening activities to the benefits of doing it. As well as taking the exercise, you can also sit back and enjoy the view and satisfaction that it's all down to you (and your mother)!

Thanks for the glimpse of your wonderful garden, Dora.