Gardening is a brilliant hobby no matter your age, but gardening for the elderly is a lot more important than you may think. The benefits of gardening, particularly for older people, are unparalleled when it comes to mental and physical health, and having access to a garden encourages the elderly to reap these benefits without the hassle. However, gardening can become a demanding and laborious job. To help you create a suitable environment when considering gardening for the elderly, we’ve got a few tips that will allow everyone to enjoy the garden while ensuring everyone is kept safe.
A living space is simply a part of your garden that allows elderly people to safely relax as and when they need to. Gardening for the elderly can be incredibly strenuous, and creating a living space in your garden is perfect for making it more accessible to them. In addition, a well laid out living space allows people to rest as and when they need to without having to wander far from the garden they are nurturing. In short, a living area means that gardeners can work at their own pace.
Decking is one of the best ways to make a living space in your garden since it provides a stable resting spot and requires little maintenance. Plus, certain types of decking, like non-slip decking, will minimise the risk of falls and other incidents. Unfortunately, half of the people over the age of 80 falls at least once a year[i], and you want to do the best you can to protect any visitors from this in your own garden.
Suitable garden furniture for elderly people is vital for making your garden safer. Unfortunately, some outdoor furniture pieces can be unsuitable for the elderly because they are too low, too reclined or too weak. So, choose safe garden furniture for the elderly and place these pieces around your garden to give the elderly somewhere to sit no matter where in your garden they are.
A large, sturdy two seater bench should do the trick if you only have a small garden. However, if your garden is quite extensive, consider placing some strong wooden garden chairs for the elderly around the space, particularly around more used areas such as flower beds and communal areas.
Everyday things in your garden that you may not even notice can be detrimental to elderly users, such as uneven pathways, steep steps and unstable decking. To help make gardening for the elderly safer in your outdoor space, you should ensure that you remove all potential trip hazards.
For example, lay down pathways with flat and slightly rough materials, such as flagstones or slabs. This way, the pathway will be smooth and non-slippery. Alternatively, you could use concrete or tarmac. However, avoid using cobbles since these are trip hazards for people of any age. Also, where possible, replace any steep steps with non-slip ramps.
Finally, adapt any decking to make it more stable. To do so, you can add railings around your decking areas for elderly people to grasp onto. However, make sure that a professional installer does so to ensure that your safety railings will be sturdy. On the other hand, you could use decking to create an extension of your garden. By decking large areas of your garden and adding flower boxes and planters to these spaces, you can give elderly people who have limited mobility or are in wheelchairs the chance to garden too.
Any garden that you are trying to equip for elderly gardeners must have handrails. Grab rails at inclines in your garden allow elderly gardeners to rest as well as steady themselves as they make their way around. Ideally, it would be best if you placed your handrails by ramps, steps and any changes in level around the garden. A good handrail for the elderly should reach about 3 feet above the surface of ramps or step nosing and at least 1 m over the landing. For the most comfortable experience, choose a handrail that is about half a metre thick.
If you’re focused on gardening for the elderly, then removing hedges may be the best option. Not only does replacing hedges with fences give any elderly gardeners a safe place to lean against, but it’s also much less maintenance. Hedges require a lot of care and will grow fast, whereas fencing can be installed and left alone. Moreover, fencing can be any colour or size, meaning you can give your garden an aesthetic touch with little labour.
Many elderly gardeners struggle with accessing flower beds. A regular flower bed is too low for most elderly people to bend down and reach comfortably, so swap out your regular flower beds for raised beds. The average height for raised garden beds is around 11 inches; however you can make yours as tall as necessary for less-abled people to comfortably use; 36 inches is the highest most gardeners are willing to go[ii]. For wheelchair users in particular, a raised bed surrounded by wide pathways is perfect.
However, for standing gardeners, a large planter will reduce the amount of kneeling needed to care for plants. Building a planter that is around 36 inches high will remove the need for bending down, and allows the growing plants to be tended to with long garden tools if necessary.
If you’ve replaced your hedges with fences or you simply don’t have enough room for large, raised beds, vertical gardening can be the best assistant to gardening for the elderly. Vertical gardening is exactly what it sounds like – growing plants up structures such as fences, trellis or netting. Not only does vertical gardening save room, but it also reduces the need for elderly gardeners to walk around a large space to tend to their plants. Any manner of flowers, fruit and vegetables can be grown in a vertical garden,
Learn more about vertical gardening and how to start your own vertical garden.
Although some of the more strenuous gardening tasks can be a challenge for the elderly, the benefits of gardening on mental and physical health as well as mobility are incredible. Because of this, you shouldn’t rid your garden of its beautiful flowers and plants under the pretence of safety. Instead, combine safety with beauty by planting hardy plants that require little maintenance all year long. Robust plants that can withstand the seasons are a lot less maintenance than more delicate flowers, meaning any elderly gardener won’t have to worry too much about looking after them 24/7.
Some great plants to include when considering gardening for the elderly include:
Grass lawns require a lot of regular care. Unfortunately, many elderly gardeners simply won’t be up to nurturing them or want to carry out the required tasks. Fortunately, there are plenty of low maintenance ground cover alternatives that won’t overtake the garden. For example, you could replace your lawn with:
On the other hand, if you’d prefer a lawn that requires even less effort, artificial grass is the best option.
Gardening as an elderly person can be difficult and sometimes distressing. Things that were so easy before are now a struggle. However, with additions to help usability and safe garden chairs for the elderly to sit and rest on, your garden should be more than equipped to help less-abled people enjoy the benefits of this wonderful hobby.
Do you have any advice on gardening for the elderly? How have you equipped your garden to make it safer for everyone? Please give us your advice below!
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.