JAM JAR ARMY: Gardens provide beneficial activity for older people

Throw your spare pennies into a jar.
Throw your spare pennies into a jar.

Our Abbeyfield week ended with a Garden Party for all the residents and what a lovely day we had for it, writes Sally Brewis, of Abbeyfield House in Alnwick.

The gardens at the house are maintained by Phillip and Daniel and there is a raised bed area behind the house which residents look after. Many of our residents love gardening and are very knowledgeable about plants and wildlife.

Gardening is hugely beneficial for older people, it is an enjoyable form of exercise, increasing levels of physical activity to maintain mobility and flexibility and can help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis. Being outside itself can reduce stress levels and promote relaxation while provide stimulation and interest in nature and wildlife.

Some physical, mental and age-related conditions must be considered when older people work in the garden, but they should not prevent people from enjoying being outside. These include being aware that fragile, thinning skin makes older people susceptible to bumps, bruises and sunburn and changes in the eye, loss of peripheral vision and generally poorer eyesight can restrict activities.

Also, a susceptibility to temperature changes and a tendency to dehydrate or suffer from heat exhaustion, are common concerns with outdoor physical activity for older people.

As mentioned above, we have raised beds at Abbeyfield House to help avoid bending and stooping. Other suggestions to adjust a garden for an elderly person include using vertical planting to make garden beds accessible for planting and harvesting – try using wall and trellis spaces.

Find adaptive tools and equipment – these are available from some hardware shops or by using foam, tape and plastic tubing to modify existing tools for a better grip. Lightweight tools also make them easier to handle.