You don’t have to give up your favorite hobby just because arthritis has made it harder for your green thumb to do its job gardening! At Hamlet at Chagrin Falls, we have a 35-plot organically correct community garden, so aging certainly doesn’t stop us from doing what we love. And we’ve thoughtfully curated our garden to suit your needs, so you can enjoy gardening made easy for seniors. We put together this list of seven tips to make gardening for seniors more accessible.
Tip #1: Give your body a few hours after waking up to warm up before getting to work. An older body needs more time to awaken its muscles and tendons before any amount of strain is put on them, or you could risk injury. You can do mild exercises, especially for your wrists, to get the synovial fluid around your joints moving before you dig in.
Tip #2: Modify your garden. Move the planters closer to your door so you don’t have to go as far to work in your garden. Use brightly colored tools to take the strain off your eyes when you’re searching for the hose. Make sure your walkways are clear and well-lit. Let someone at Hamlet know if you need help physically moving things around.
Tip #3: Choose lower-maintenance plants. Make it easier on yourself by choosing to plant things that are less strenuous to take care of and can withstand drought, therefore needing less constant attention, like lilies or wild lilac. Choose plants that are native to Chagrin Falls, like brown-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers and joe-pye weeds, so they thrive in their environment without needing as much care.
Tip #4: Use lightweight, ergonomic gardening tools. These are available in many shapes and sizes, but know that just because it’s deemed “ergonomic” doesn’t mean it was made for you. Pay attention to how your body feels after a gardening session using the tool. Little backlash from your joints? Maybe you’ve found the tool for you! Joints screaming at you? Maybe try a different tool. And remember, your muscles remember, and they get used to the same exercises over time, so the same tool may not do the trick forever. Listen to your body and don’t ignore when it’s telling you it’s time to try something else. When you’re at the gardening store, make sure to test the tool out, feel it in your hand. Choose tools with extra hand cushioning to ease the pressure on your bones. Many gardening tools for seniors also have adjustable handles, so you can customize it to fit your anatomy.
Tip #5: Keep your sharp tools sharp. Sharper blades cut much more easily, with less resistance, which takes the work out of your hands and puts it on the tool. So be sure to sharpen them regularly. Your plant will thank you, too, for the clean chop!
Tip #6: Switch it up every 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t do the same activity for too long, as this can strain and wear down the muscles and joints you’re working. Be cognizant of the physical actions you’re performing, and switch to a task that uses a different muscle group and/or joints every 20 to 30 minutes. You can always come back to what you were doing after you’ve given your body time to rest.
Tip #7: Try vertical gardening. This one takes a bit more effort, but you can install raised garden beds and vertical structures to bring the garden to you and avoid having to get on your hands and knees. Try container gardening with the containers at a height that doesn’t require you to bend or kneel. This could be a great activity to initiate with your family next time they’re in for a visit, or if you’re handy, you could create a structure in our woodworking shop. Hamlet staff is happy to help you with this initiative if you express your interest to us.
Aging is no reason to give up the hobbies you love, even if they become more difficult to do. Half of the battle is attitude; stay positive that you can be active and healthy well into your senior years, and modify how you do your favorite activity to meet your changing needs. Always consult your doctor about your physical abilities and limitations if you’re unsure about a physical activity or exercise — better to be safe than sorry. Start planning your visit to Hamlet at Chagrin Falls to check out our organic community garden, and see what else our residents and staff are keeping busy with.