You’re Retired, Now What? : Gardening

Senior citizen watering plants in a large garden

By Cindy Hett

Most people long for retirement so they can spend their time as they wish. Many retirees discover, however, that the projects they planned do not take long and their hobbies are not enough to fill their days and they begin to ask themselves, “Now what?”

As a senior, if you could discover an activity that brings enjoyment, has great health benefits, leads to new friendships and doesn’t require too much strain and strength, wouldn’t you consider pursuing it? No, this activity isn’t eating but gardening.

One benefit of gardening is the enjoyment of results produced by the effort put forth in gardening.  Most of us appreciate the beauty flowers bring to our lives. Present a flower to someone and watch their face light up. And who doesn’t enjoy eating?  There is pleasure in knowing your work led to the production of nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Study after study shows gardening relieves stress, anxiety, and depression.  Serotonin levels are elevated during gardening, which leads to peace and happiness.  At the same time, cortisol levels decrease.  High cortisol levels lead to stress, high blood pressure and a rise in glucose.†

Other health benefits include an immune system boost, vitamin intake, brain stimulation, and exercise.  Friendly soil bacteria actually help the body fight asthma and psoriasis.  Sun exposure provides much needed vitamin D.  Dementia risk can be lowered by up to 36%. Finally, bending, squatting and reaching promote muscle strengthening which help flexibility and shed calories.

Community gardens, such as the one at ACV, provide social opportunities. The sharing of gardening knowledge or excess harvests by a fellow gardener both lead to lasting friendships.  Working side by side with a common goal brings togetherness.

Sun, heat, bugs, balance and dexterity can all be challenging when gardening, but there are solutions for all these that make gardening less strenuous. Tending to a garden during early morning or late afternoons reduces the drain produced by the sun and heat.  Insect repellent or dryer sheets keep bugs at bay.  Raised beds help those with back or balance issues.  Vertical gardening also helps with balance issues, and many vegetables can be grown this way. Foam placed around tool handles provides a better grip.  Kneelers are a great help for comfort as well as mobility.

In light of all the benefits and solutions provided in this article, what are you waiting for? Join your local community garden today — the benefits could change your life.


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