Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

Highpointe at Rebecca resident Alice in her garden

April is National Garden Month, and for most regions, the threat of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to a safe planting temperature. The benefits of gardening are as bountiful as a green thumb’s imagination, and for seniors, these benefits can have a tremendous impact on their overall well-being.

We’ve invited a few resident gardeners from across Concordia’s retirement living communities to help us better understand how gardening promotes a positive aging lifestyle, and these benefits could help anyone, no matter what age!

Growing Social Connections

Gardening is unique in the fact that it can be enjoyed as a solitary activity or with a community. One can easily fall “in the zone,” tuning out all around them, as they consider the proper plot size, analyze the soil and loosen and massage the roots of a seedling they’ve nurtured for weeks. The collaborative planning with family, friends and neighbors, sharing a harvest and the natural social connection that grows from the activity are often as equally satisfying.  

For some, like Concordia Haven Apartments resident Bud Sears, enjoying the solitary and connective aspects of gardening occur concurrently.

He begins most mornings of the season on his side-by-side, sipping coffee while taking in the sunrise as a customized watering wand system tends to the thoughtfully selected crops he and his garden club planted.

“It’s personal,” Bud said in response to where his joy in gardening lies. “But, at the same time, it’s a feeling of being able to share your work with others that is meaningful. For us, it is a yearlong cooperation and we have nine volunteer residents who make it possible.”

Bud (center) and members of the Cabot Haven Apartments garden club

Bud and his team of volunteers start seeds in their apartments and raised hot beds. They meet to plan the year ahead – what they’ll be growing, how to address challenges (like rodents and accessibility) and events they can hold throughout the year to foster fellowship.

Last year, his garden club introduced “garden tours” – residents and staff rode in golf carts through the garden and picked fresh vegetables. The club has hosted Halloween parties, featuring their harvests, for the past two years in the woods behind the Concordia at Cabot campus, and this year, they plan to introduce a Christmas in July-themed garden event.  

“Our garden not only provides exercise and therapy for our gardeners, but also provides fresh vegetables – free of cost – to our residents, staff and their families each year,” Bud said. “We have absolutely zero waste – everything we grow is given back to our community.” 

Related: It’s Gardening Season! Tips to Avoid Common Injuries

Cultivating Purpose

Betty Persinksi, an independent living resident at Concordia of the South Hills, finds a calmness in gardening that she first discovered as a kid.

“Gardening was a part of how I was raised,” Betty said. “We lived far from the nearest town and had a lot of acreage; an entire half acre was dedicated to a garden. My family planted, harvested and canned, and this upbringing has stayed with me.”

There’s a cathartic element to gardening that resonates with Betty.   

“I really enjoy the outdoors,” she said. “And, digging in the dirt is very calming. I’ve always had the desire to be outdoors and to watch things grow.”

For many years, Betty would grow what her family called the “salad bowl” – tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and peppers. The joy of watching a seedling grow and develop into something you can eat is the greatest benefit that gardening provides to her. 

Betty's freshly harvest salad bowl
Betty’s fresh harvest

“There isn’t anything more satisfying than picking a tomato out of the garden and eating it fresh. The taste is just there – you can’t replicate that from produce you purchase in a store.”

She offered a unique metaphor illustrating the cyclical behavior of gardening and the gift it provides the gardener each season.

“Many years ago, my aunt was a kindergarten and first-grade teacher. She would always say, ‘The feeling of watching kids grow is indescribable’ – you meet them when they are first introduced to school and help nurture their development. It’s the same with gardening. You plant a 4-inch seedling and by the end of the season, they are so tall! It’s amazing.”

This year, Betty is shifting her focus to patio flowers.

“I get a lot of afternoon sun on my porch, and I have six pots to fill,” she said. “My daughter bought me daisies for Easter, and I am going to go to the local nursery to find flowers that love the sun.”

Related: Concordia Retirement Living Residents Find Joy in Gardening

A Dash of Exercise

About seven years ago, Alice LaBarre, a Highpointe at Rebecca resident (pictured in the featured image), helped her friend Dot start a garden club at their retirement living community. Fellow residents in the community’s woodshop built the raised beds, Dot mapped it all out and Alice helped by planting seeds to start indoors.

“Dot got sick and wasn’t able to continue,” she said. “And I took over from there.”

Highpointe at Rebecca independent living garden club
Highpointe at Rebecca garden club

The club was inspired by Dot’s vision and got to work. Each spring, plots are assigned to residents so those who participate have their own space. Everyone is responsible for their own plants and the club takes care of the soil and fertilizer. The gardeners rotate watering responsibilities.

Alice echoes her fellow Concordia retirement living residents Bud and Betty’s thoughts on gardening with an added benefit – exercise.

Related: Exercise for Healthy Aging

“I think it’s good to get outside and people enjoy watching things grow,” she said. “Gardening also provides a little bit of exercise and a little bit of fellowship.”

Alice is right! Gardening is an accessible activity that can be modified as needed so people of all ages, especially seniors, can reap the physical benefits. Digging in the dirt, lifting potted plants, pruning and watering all provide low-impact exercise that promotes movement, stretching and coordination.

Concordia offers senior activities for residents of all levels of care that provide physical exercise and mental stimulation in a safe and relaxing environment. To learn more about our senior living communities in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and Tampa, Florida, visit our locations page or send us a message through our contact form.

Founded in 1881, Concordia Lutheran Ministries is a faith-based, CARF-accredited Aging Services Network and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest nonprofit senior care providers in the country, the organization serves 50,000 people annually through in-home care and inpatient locations.

Get Updates From Concordia

There is always a LOT happening at Concordia! Would you like to stay up-to-date with our news and events? Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.