Gardens For Senior Citizens: Creating An Easy Care Senior Garden

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

A lifelong love of gardening should not have to end as mobility and other issues arise in seniors. The leisure pastime provides exercise, stimulation, accomplishment and a host of other benefits that are healthy for the mind and body. Nurseries and garden centers are heeding the special needs of older gardeners.

There are numerous gardening tools for seniors and methods to assist a gardener that is experiencing the march of time. Senior gardening activities may require some adaptation and knowledge on elderly accessible gardens.

Creating an Easy Care Senior Garden

Low stamina and limited mobility are two of the biggest impacts of aging. Continued enjoyment in the garden may be diminished if it is difficult to get around or the routine of work is too vast. However, there are some simple things that can be done to make the garden a continual place of enjoyment.

  • Choose easy to grow plants that are tolerant of difficult conditions.
  • Build raised beds that have enough room on all sides to reach the center.
  • Place stools or resting places around when creating an easy care senior garden.
  • Gardens for senior citizens should be simple and contained, with fencing to provide security.
  • Provide pathways that are easy for walkers, canes, or wheelchairs to access.

Gardening Tools for Seniors

Conditions, such as arthritis, make holding tools painful or even impossible. There are foam grips you can add to existing tools to soften the handles and add traction. Stretching also becomes an issue but is easy to solve with a myriad of “grabbers” and extension poles. These may be used from a sitting position.

Brightly colored handles are essential gardening tools for seniors that are beginning to experience vision problems. You can make these easily with colorful bike tape or even the multi-hued duct tapes available.

One of the most useful items for the senior gardener is a wheeled garden caddy. These act as a perch, a container to hold tools and provide an easy cart for moving heavier objects.

Gardeners with patios or lanais benefit from coiled hoses that you can attach to your kitchen faucet. These help prevent injuries that might result from hauling heavy watering cans.

Planting Tips for Elderly Accessible Gardens

Enjoying gardening late into life provides more than health benefits. The successful senior gardener can also stretch his/her pocketbook. Seniors are usually on fixed incomes and may find it difficult to afford some necessities. Growing food in the garden stretches the tight budget and ensures a well-rounded diet.

Seeds are cheap and there are methods of easy sowing for elderly gardeners. Use gardening tools for seniors such as seed syringes, seed tape, and seed with the soil mixed in.

When dexterity is an issue, use transplants, which are large enough to grasp and install in your beds.

A very low risk and accessible method of gardening for older persons is container gardening. Containers should be on casters or stands for easy moving and made of lightweight material.

Senior Gardening Activities

Senior centers and retirement communities excel at providing elderly accessible gardens. Senior service groups, and even churches, are excellent resources for help in setting up your easy care garden situation as well as senior gardening activities.

A little thought and planning can ensure safe and productive gardens for senior citizens.

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These tips are intended as a basic guide and not as detailed specifications. It is ess ential that any design conforms with current Building Regulations.

Paths with a good sound even surface are essential if you are using walking sticks, walking aids or a wheelchair. They should be at least 3ft (two 18" slabs) wide with a turning circle large enough to turn around in. Gravel is not a suitable surface material for a wheelchair. Even compacted gravel makes walking with sticks or driving your wheelchair really difficult. Concrete slabs are slippery when they get wet or icy. Having a slight slope for water run off is a good idea. If your path is going to run over different levels, gradual slopes are better than steps. It's also a good idea to fit handrails on the slopes. Consider using Roll-out pathways to extend paths over muddy areas, gravel, lawns or slippery decking, etc.

Dimensions. How wide should a pathway for a wheelchair be ?

1:15 - recommended maximum gradient.

1:20 is the preferred maximum gradient. A gradient of 1:12 is the maximum given in the British Standards. In practice, this gradient is to steep for older people and wheelchair users. Although a slightly steeper gradient over a shorter distance may be easier to handle than a gentler one over a long distance. Long gradients of more than 1:20 should have level resting areas at about every 30m.

  • Concrete is low cost, durable and low maintenance. Unattractive but surface can be textured to give extra grip.
  • Tarmac is also low cost and low maintenance. Good durability as long its laid correctly. Its durable and low maintenance. Again unattractive but can be surfaced with other materials to give attractive finish. Should be laid between solid edges. 'Stickiness' in hot weather can be a problem for wheelchairs..
  • Reclaimed bricks Block pavers or house brick surfaces are attractive with a range of colours and grades. Proper construction is essential, loose or poorly laid bricks are a hazard.
  • Wood medium to high cost but looks good and is natural. the main problem is its relatively short life and it can be slippery. Must be well laid in the direction of travel so as not to trap wheelchair wheels.
  • Cobbles are expensive and provide a difficult surface for most disabled people, although they can be set low to make a smoother surface.
  • Slabs/flagstones make a good surface when correctly laid, flat surfaces can be slippery in the wet but can come with a slightly roughed surface. Best laid with a slight slope or close butted (without mortar) for water run off.
  • Handrails along ramps or steps will provide welcome, often essential, support to people with limited mobility. Handrails should be fitted for steps, ramps, abrupt changes in level or where people with walking difficulties are likely to need extra support.
  • The handrail diameter should be comfortable to the grip not to narrow or to wide, 45-50mm is about right. The Rail height depends on the height of the user. The norm is 850mm above step nosing or ramp surface and 1m above landing. Double rails should be fitted for people using a wheelchair with the lower rail height about 750 mm. Rails should extend approximately 450 mm beyond the ramp. This is intended as a basic guide and not as detailed specifications. It is essential that any design meets current Building Regulations.
  • Materials for handrails that give a firm and comfortable grip should be used. Metal is uncomfortable when cold or wet, and is better coated nylon of plastic . Good quality, non-splintering hardwood is more comfortable to the touch.

Indoor Gardening for Seniors

Tending to a garden is one of the best ways to keep seniors active and engaged. Not only does gardening help with mobile dexterity, it is also shown to alleviate anxiety and improve mood, among other health benefits. Outdoor gardening is great during the warmer months, but having indoor plants can ensure enjoyment for seniors all year round.

Read on for a step-by-step guide to create an indoor garden for your senior loved one.

Prepare the Area

Pick A Spot
It’s important to choose a spot that won’t be in the way. How about a windowsill or small table that’s near a light source? Other options include using the vertical space in a room with hanging baskets that won’t take up any floor or table space. Picking a spot that is easily accessible, but also out of the walkway is important in order to keep the home safe.

Choose A Container
Indoor gardens can be grown in virtually anything that will hold soil and allow for extra water to drain. You can choose from a variety of indoor containers that include trays with extra plastic lids to create a greenhouse effect. Other options include small pots or more expensive kits that come with everything included. If you’re looking for a low-cost option, consider reusing old coffee tins and bowls that can be recycled into a unique indoor garden area. Once you pick the right container for the area, fill the containers with potting soil for extra nutrients.

Add Some Lighting
Consider adding some plant lights for the indoor garden in order to make sure the plants germinate and grow well. If your loved one lives in senior care, make sure to ask about hanging different kinds of lighting in the room before you install anything. Other options include plug-in lighting that can be easily moved around or removed if needed.

Choose the Plants

Seed or Starter?
Growing a plant from seed is a common way to start an indoor garden. Seniors can easily do the work themselves and will find joy in watching their seedlings sprout. However, some seeds are so incredibly small that planting them can be hard for seniors. In this case, consider choosing starter plants that are still small but easier to plant. Make sure to help your senior loved one label anything that is planted so they’ll remember how to care for the plant.

Consider Size
Rule out plants that tend to grow too large as they mature. Those could become overwhelming and burdening. Choose plants that will grow about one foot tall depending on the kind of container you’re using. Plants in hanging baskets can grow longer as they will hang over the side and have more space to freely grow.

Edible Options
A number of fruits and vegetables that grow with ease outdoors are easily transferrable indoors. Some low maintenance options include peas, green beans, and strawberries. Other items, such as peppers, are small enough to garden indoors and they provide tasty nutrients.

Remember Pollination
There are some plants that will require pollination in order to mature correctly. Keep this in mind when choosing plants for your senior loved one’s indoor garden. Hand pollination is an option and will help your senior with dexterity. For an ultra-low-maintenance option, choose plants that don’t require any pollination.


Right Tools
An indoor gardener has to have the essentials. These items include a small trowel or shovel, a watering can or cup, some extra potting soil, and gardening gloves. Make sure seniors can easily access the indoor garden and won’t need to bend over too much to care for it correctly.

Make It Social

Ask About the Garden
Everyone loves chatting about their garden! Make sure to engage your senior loved one when you call or visit and ask them about how the garden is doing. Listen to their concerns and consider adding more gardening options if they want to expand. Help seniors remember to water the garden by placing a chart or note next to the garden.

Garden with Friends
Once your loved one has an indoor garden the idea may grow among their friends and neighbors. You could make sure they all have access to an indoor garden by creating a larger gardening space in a common area of the building. You’ll probably see that many residents want to garden and that the indoor garden will become a busy area of daily activity.

Kristina Phelan is a freelance writer and her parenting column, Mama Bear Moxie, is printed in newspapers across the country. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her husband, three kiddos, and too many animals.

There are highly effective ergonomic tools for combating weeds, but you can also be proactive and spend very little in this regard. Kerrigan advises gardeners "to put down a layer of newspaper and then cover that with mulch or use weed mats that are available to reduce the amount of weeding that has to be done."

Tools for Accessible Gardening

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How Do I. Create a Senior-Friendly Garden?

Evette Moran in the award-winning garden she designed for Mark Moran Vaucluse aged-care centre in NSW

Make sure the layout is user-friendly

  • Include plenty of flat surfaces.
  • Make sure walkways are spacious and easy to navigate.
  • Create zones in the garden for different types of plants, such as native species, vegetables and fruit trees. This makes the garden an interesting place to spend time in, plus zones make it easy to move around.

  • Wildlife: People of every age usually love wildlife – native Australian wildlife in particular. At our Vaucluse, NSW, garden we recently added a menagerie-style aviary that features Australian birds, native beehives, koi fish and frog ponds that locals and residents love. Adding features to your garden that will attract wildlife is a great idea.
  • Colour: Plants with plenty of colour lift the spirits and can inspire us to get moving. They’re also great for detracting attention from those less-than-lovely features in a garden.

Tell us
Have you designed a garden for a senior in your life? Tell us how you went about it in the Comments below, like this story, save your favourite images and join the conversation.

Want a hand planning or planting your senior-friendly garden? Speak to a local gardener or landscape contractor

Published by

Clare Johnson

Clare Johnson serves as the Horticultural Therapy Services Manager and Design Consultant at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is responsible for the planning, supervision, and delivery of horticultural therapy services at sites throughout the greater Chicago area. Johnson also provides consultation to facilities planning therapeutic gardens. This includes systematically discerning the needs, uses, and stakeholders in the project and providing conceptual designs based on that process. View all posts by Clare Johnson

Remember, Age Is Just A Number

You can continue to enjoy nature’s majesty even in your golden years. Source: foooomio

As you get ready to plant your next batch of flowers or harvest your next crop of tasty vegetables, don’t let your age discourage you! Knowing the benefits will help motivate and encourage you, and taking advantage of all these tips and tools at your disposal will make things even more enjoyable, comfortable, and fulfilling.

Elderly gardening is good for your body and your mind, plus it has other benefits! The next time someone tells you you’re too old to garden, hand them a bite of your delicious harvest and let their priceless reaction do the talking.

With all of the incredible benefits that gardening can bring, it’s no surprise that I plan on gardening well into old age. Have you discovered any of the healthy aspects of gardening on your lifestyle? Share stories with everyone in the comments below!

Watch the video: Rambling on about getting older and still gardening

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