5 Benefits of Urban Gardening for Older Adults
Posted on July 11, 2014 by Taylor Rhea
Skim the headlines of any major news outlet or social media channel and you’ll find articles, blogs and posts touting urban agriculture, farming and gardening as new and emerging trends.
In New York, however, the residents of Atria Penfield have been doing it for years.
Since 2011, members of the senior living community’s gardening club have produced their own vegetables and herbs for the kitchen to incorporate into menu selections.
Atria Penfield offers on-site gardens for their residents, including both indoor and outdoor beds. Residents also planted an apple tree last year for Arbor Day and plan to use the harvested crop for future dishes.
Engage Life Director Kristin Cronk has seen, first-hand the benefits gardening has on her residents.
Let’s run through the top 5!
The obvious benefit of on-site gardening is that it produces nutrient-dense foods and ingredients that contribute to a balanced diet. At Atria Penfield, residents grow rosemary, thyme, basil, brussels sprouts, six kinds of tomatoes, jalapeños, and sweet peppers – just to name a few. Resident Doris C. likes tomatoes best: "I love gardening so much. I really enjoy it. Planting tomatoes is great, but I'm REALLY excited to eat them!"
2. Physical and Mental Engagement
Spending time in nature can be good for a person’s entire well being.
Physically, gardening requires strength for raking, digging, pulling weeds, bending over and more. It can be fairly laborious at times.
Mentally, it takes patience to wait for your plants to sprout. Gardening also gives residents the opportunity to watch something they planted slowly come to life, which can be invigorating.
Working outdoors also allows for increased vitamin D intake, a key contributor to good health. “We especially like getting our residents outside during spring and summer, which is why we incorporate gardening in our activities calendar,” said Kristin.
It’s a no-brainer that growing your own food can be a costsaver. Not only does Atria Penfield’s kitchen use these homegrown ingredients in their dishes, the Engage Life® team also takes advantage of using the produce in their programming, with baking classes, outside cooking demos, gardening events and more.
4. Lifelong Learning
Those who have never gardened before can learn so much – best practices, time of day to water, how often to water and what types of plants need unique attention. At Atria Penfield, residents also learn about the health benefits of eating locally grown food, as well as how it’s better for the environment and more satisfying to our taste buds.
5. Sense of Accomplishment
As mentioned earlier, gardening lets residents watch something they planted come to life. For an older adult who feels as though they’ve lost their purpose, gardening delivers a sense of meaning and accomplishment. “It gives them a piece of home and familiarity. It makes them proud to see that something they created is being used,” said Kristin. “Our chef – who is Italian – has been making a sauce for years with the residents’ homegrown tomatoes. They can’t wait for the apple tree to start producing so that we can make apple sauce and homemade apple pies!”
It’s clear that for the residents of Atria Penfield, urban gardening is more than just a trend; it’s a sustainable practice that’s good for the environment and beneficial for aging adults.