According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), horticultural therapy has been improving the minds and spirits of those who practice this therapy since the nineteenth century. Therapeutic gardens, which often feature easily-accessible entrances and walking paths, raised planting beds and a sensory-oriented selection of plants with various colors, textures, and fragrances, are increasingly popular in senior living communities. There are many benefits to planting and gardening that greatly contribute to the overall well-being of seniors.
Five of these benefits include:
Personal autonomy – The time, care, and work required for a garden to flourish provides opportunity for seniors, whose dependence may be decreasing, to work independently, problem solve, and exercise freedom of their abilities. Knowing that their actions directly contribute to the growth and beauty of a garden brings a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Increase mobility – Gardening can be excellent physical exercise. Horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. Daily planting, watering, weeding, and walks through the garden all promote physical wellness and muscle movement.
Reduce Stress - Time spent enjoying nature and gardening can improve reactions to stress. Therapeutic gardens, which are designed to purposefully facilitate interaction with nature's healing elements, provide a sense of calm and mental clarity that can reduce stress.
Improve cognition – Therapeutic gardening is restorative and can help improve attention span and mental acuity. This is attributed to the two components of attention, voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary attention filters extraneous stimuli when concentrating on a specific task and undergoes fatigue with time. Involuntary attention is stimulated by the colors, textures, smells, and sounds in a garden and spares voluntary attention fatigue, allowing for prolonged and higher levels of attention and concentration.
Socialization – Gardening with friends, caregivers, and visitors helps build connections through shared sensory experiences. The literal fruits (and vegetables) of labor that flourish from the gardens can be shared in homes, kitchens, and personal gardens that bring connection to the entire community.
To learn more about horticultural therapy, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.
Read about Rose Villa’s horticultural therapy here, and visit the Lifestyle section of our website to learn about our community garden.