Aging and the Joy of Gardening

Gardening has long been recognized as an avenue to personal wellbeing for older adults. There is even an entire subfield of scholarship devoted to this topic: gray and green research explores the relationship between aging, leisure activities, and gardens (for instance this article).

Gardening has long been recognized for its ability to evoke memories, provide a sense of achievement, stimulate social interactions and mental stimulation, be done alone or with others, promote contact with nature (especially changing seasons) as well as give a sense of purpose and meaning – key components to successful aging. According to studies done on gardening as an activity that provides many of these benefits it should become part of mainstream education curriculums and become an activity enjoyed by adults throughout their lifespans.

Not to be underestimated, gardening can be strenuous work. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a garden knows it doesn’t all consist of flowers and hummingbirds – there may be weeds to pull and hedges to trim as well as plants needing watering. Therefore it’s advisable to pace yourself by taking frequent rest breaks and drinking plenty of water during this process.

We examined the perceived psychosocial and physical benefits of gardening among a sample of community-dwelling older adults, and explored their relationships to positive attitudes about aging as measured by the Attitudes to Aging Questionnaire (AAQ). Standard regression analyses were performed, using AAQ Physical Change and Psychological Growth scales as outcome variables and AAQ Benefits of Gardening scales as explanatory variables; results demonstrated that longer participants spent engaging in leisure activity the greater were the psychological and physical rewards received.