Photo by Melody

Geriatric gardening

By April (Aunt_AJanuary 15, 2009

Are you old? Maybe not yet, but you are older then you were ten years ago. Do you know someone that is enjoying their golden years or will you someday retire? Then this article is for you. A Dave's Garden member, Peg (known to her Dave's Garden friends as DATURA12) advocates gardening for geriatrics. Her ideas are inspiring.

Gardening picture

After Peg (aka DATURA12) experienced severe back problems and multiple surgeries, she regained her strength through gardening. Click here for a link to the story of how she overcame pain and disability as she created beautiful topiary furniture.  Peg not only created a masterpiece and became a Master Gardener, she found that gardening is great physical therapy. She is now passionate about gardening for the geriatric population. Her ideas and passion were so inspiring, they deserved a separate article.


 Photo copyright: April Campbell


Peg said the one thing she wanted the whole world to know through her experience was that "nursing homes and other care facilities should consider incorporating gardening projects into the activities for residents." Peg stated that a butterfly, bird and hummingbird garden could increase the quality of life for everyone, including the Baby Boomer generation that will soon start entering facilities. In fact, Peg is so determined to share the idea of geriatric gardening, she sent me a list of the direct benefits of gardening, which I've included below. (I added the last four items to her list.)

Gardening can improve:

  1. Manual dexterity
  2. Cognitive function and math skills
  3. Quality of life
  4. Exercise
  5. Depression
  6. Anxiety
  7. Contentment levels
  8. Vitamin D deficiency (Research has proven that individuals not exposed to sunlight on a regular basis can become deficient.)
  9. Pride of accomplishment
  10. A feeling of usefulness
  11. Social skills
  12. Family visits

Do you have a family member or friend in a long-term care facility? If the facility does not yet offer opportunities for their residents to garden, take this opportunity to introduce gardening therapy to their residents. Here are just a few ideas from Peg and me. Volunteers, patients' families or a resident could approach the staff with one or more of these ideas, especially if you can offer to assist.

  • Establish a small garden research library in the facility
  • Allow for internet use for the identification of butterflies, insects, flowers, birds and gardening fauna
  • Encourage friendships gained through gardening sites like Dave's Garden
  • Plan and maintain garden space
  • Promote contests, art shows and plant shows
  • Create and maintain individual small 1-gallon topiaries
  • Encourage the passive art of Bonsai
  • Grow a portion of the resident's own food on a small scale
  • Decorate the common areas with plants grown and maintained by the residents
  • Build a green house and allow the residents to maintain the plants as much as possible
  • Establish teams to take care of different areas of the garden
  • Hold a Dave's Garden "Round-up" gathering at the facility!
  Image  ImageImage

It may be late afternoon on the
clock of life, but there is plenty of time left to enjoy gardening.
Photo copyright April Campbell

Life should not simply fall into disrepair; gardening can help keep a connection to the world.
Photo copyright April Campbell

 The rusted wire and the fading
flower each have their own story and special beauty. So it is with the geriatric population.
Photo copyright April Campbell

It is certainly probable that some of the residents would not want to garden and others would not be physically able to maintain one. If you have questions, need inspiration or are looking for a support group, visit the following forums on Dave's Garden: Accessible Gardening Discussion Forum and Caregivers Discussion Forum. (These are both open to subscribers only). Click here for information about becoming a subscribed member.

However, the energy of the results and the beauty of purpose should increase the health of most of the residents. There is something more than magical about gardening; it brings life out of darkness, reminds us that there is still incredible natural beauty in this world, connects us with the cycle of life and gives us a reason for being.

Long live gardening!


 Model: H. Carl Fall 1993
Photo copyright April Campbell

Pertinent links:

Topiary: Art with Nature, Part 2~How To Do It Yourself byToni Leland

I'm a Garden Design Thief - And Proud of It! by Marna Towne

Shucky Beans, Granny Ninna and Aunt Bett by Sharon Brown

Life Filled With Stress? Find Peace in the Garden by Cathy M Wallace

Welcome to Peg's topiary living room by April Campbell

Iowa Roundup 2008--Portal to Plant Heaven by Larry Rettig

The Fall 2008 Florida-Alabama Round Up: Good food, friends and plants by Jacqueline Cross

Thank you for reading this article. Special thanks to the models: P.E. Potter and H. Carl. All photos are copyrighted by April Campbell.

Note: I am not an expert on geriatric care; please consult a professional.

Please feel free to add a comment below.


  About April  
AprilThe garden in my head is better than the one in my yard. However, I plant at least one tree every year and have left every home with a little more green than it had before. I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I enjoy writing them. Editor's note: Aunt_A passed away on 12-06-2010. We will miss her greatly and are thankful for her legacy of wonderful articles.

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