January 26, 2020
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Why gardening is the most recommended exercise for seniors

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
August 17, 2018
Navigating the aging journey

 Wisdom comes in handy when aging is the topic of the day. Fresh air and exercise are the most common recommendations for staying healthy that we get regardless of how old or young we are.

 It doesn’t take a physicist or a bodyworker much time to agree that getting out into the sunshine on a nice day to bend, pull, walk, draw in the fragrances of the earth, plants and flowers are enough to make anyone feel more alive.

 The focus on gardens and gardening

 Healdsburg Senior Living is an independent, assisted living and skilled nursing rehab aging community that has been spotlighted for its programs for seniors. Their gardens produce food for the community and deliver an active opportunity to be involved in the growth and expansion.

 Healdsburg SL community gardens:

This summer- by the animal barnyard - the completed wheelchair accessible fragrance and tactile garden access paths were added.

 A rather extraordinary part of HSL’s expanded 12 months of the year outdoors is that so many of the elders in the community are actively hands - on involved in its planning, planting, enjoying and now most importantly - harvesting!  

At this senior living community - they take the eggs from their chickens, honey from their bee hives and the produce from the garden and integrate them into the community dining hall meals.

 What is true - is that most senior living communities make a real effort to enhance their grounds with beautiful gardens and landscaping because of the healing and aesthetic values. Wherever you find extensive food production gardens - you will find elders active in the garden.

 The Sonoma County Luther Burbank District Garden Clubs

 Given the truth of how healing gardening can be for our elders - it should not surprise you to learn that a good number of active members of our local Sonoma County Luther Burbank Garden Club have members that are spry enough to still garden at age 100.

 Even the Rohnert Park garden club has members that are 90 plus and still gardening in their yards and attending activities and meetings! We just made and delivered the table centerpieces for a local graduation ceremony.

Walking slowly through a garden, stopping on occasion to pull a weed, smell a flower, pick some tomatoes or gather a little basil for the kitchen - all of this delivers life enhancing experience in addition to the needed movement and exercise essential to support the immune system and keep the body in good health with toning muscles and absorbing sorely needed vitamin D.

 In a culture where we can go from indoors, to the car, to the house and store and restaurants without ever lingering outside much - creates a lack of interaction with nature that has been proven to decrease quality of life for those housebound or who lack incentives to get outside.

 Today the main treatment for depression - can simply be to get out into the sun and fresh air and walk until you are tired. Depression itself has been linked to inactivity and remaining indoors too much, among other things.

 Even dementia can be treated this way. Researchers have shown recently that when someone with dementia gets out and walks briskly with a companion while at the same time talking intently and intensely about a topic both people have a passion for - it is actually really good for the brain - and for some it can even help to prevent more dementia.

 The co-interaction of brain activity with heart pumping with the fresh air of outside and the relaxing visuals of a flowering landscape all serve to enhance emotional experiences. And yes - enhance means enjoy. It enhances us because it provides good feelings all around. And the exercise component is just one of the many proven benefits of spending quality time outside for elders.

 In a world where it is far too easy to become a shut-in person who has given up on gathering the energy required to venture outdoors to smell the flowers and pull a few weeds in the backyard garden - finding that time may mean finding a little more joy in your day - and adding a few more years onto your life.

 To visit Healdsburg Senior Living phone 707-657-4056 and make an appointment with Tony Fisher to tour their beautiful property. If you are interested in joining the Rohnert Park Garden Club phone my office at 707-586-1516.


Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.