by Kaye Swain
Fun and physical senior citizen activities can definitely include gardening. And what a day brightener it can be for a senior parent or friend when they get to enjoy the lovely harvest of their hands, whether flowers or vegetables.
But as we age, our bodies may get a little less cooperative, making familiar and well-loved tasks more difficult. Happily, there are some great tools out there to help aging parents stay active easier:
1. Garden wagon - look for ones with bigger wheels that are easy to steer. My senior mom uses one to carry her pots and potting soil around easily at the beginning of the season. Then she puts both of her garden wagons to work as "raised beds vegetable gardens" that are easier for her to reach. She just puts all her pots in the wagons. They are a great height for her to work with and have the added benefit of being easily moved into the garage if a bad windstorm comes up.
2. A work table that is at a good height for your seniors. We use our metal picnic table that is easy to clean, has holes in it for dirt to fall through and be easily swept or hosed up, and gives her a nice work space. And with a little rearranging, she enjoys her morning coffee out there on warm days. A great way for her to start the day.
3. A hose that is long enough to reach all their plants and that doesn't get twisted easily. I've seen senior friends insist on "making do" with the same hose they've used for years, in spite of frustrating kinks they keep getting. Encourage them to invest in a sturdy no-kink hose to make their gardening effort more pleasant.
4. Encourage them to update their tool collection. Help them look specifically for ones that are easier to use - even when dealing with arthritis in their hands and arms. Lighter weight, rubber gripped handles can make a big difference in how comfortable it is for an aging parent to use the tools effectively and enjoyably. And they might also want to look at a simpler way to store their tools, such as the Rubbermaid tool cart with wheels that would enable them to move it around easily.
5. Another area of unnecessary weight is often found in the pots. Suggest that they give away their traditional and heavy clay pots and replace them with the much lighter and quite nice looking plastic pots. Just make sure they have holes in the bottom of the pot - or starter holes that enable you to punch out the holes easily.
6. A light weight watering can is also a great addition for those times they just need to water a few plants. They won't need to get the heavy hose out as often which is always nice.
We often tend to be creatures of habit, using what we've always used, not realizing there may be easier solutions to help us continue this enjoyable and healthy pastime. And that's just as true for the aging adults we care about. When their senior bodies are not cooperating as much as when they were younger, it can be tempting for them to just give up on gardening, even if they have always enjoyed it. Taking a fresh look at those familiar tools could open up a whole new world for them that will help them stay healthier and more active much longer. A great solution for them and for you.
Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.