Gardening Safety Tips for Seniors
Both Experienced and Beginner Gardeners Should Keep These Tips in Mind
Gardening can be a fun activity for seniors to spend time with their family, relax for themselves, spend time outdoors, care for something other than themselves and even provide their own fruits and vegetables. Spring is the perfect time to start making plans for the garden and the weather is perfect for spending time outside. (Image above: Haws Design Traditional Peter Rabbit Design Metal Watering Can created by John Haws in 1886. Made in England.)
Physical, mental and age-related conditions must be considered, however, when older people work in the garden, but they should not prevent people from enjoying the garden.
Skin – fragile, thinning skin makes older people susceptible to bumps, bruises and sunburn.
Vision – changes in the eye lens structure, loss of peripheral vision and generally poorer eyesight can restrict activities.
Mental abilities – mental health, thinking and memory abilities may be affected by dementia and similar conditions.
Body temperature – susceptibility to temperature changes and a tendency to dehydrate or suffer from heat exhaustion, are common concerns with outdoor physical activity for older people.
Skeletal – falls are more common because balance is often not as good. Osteoporosis and arthritis may restrict movement and flexibility.
So whether you are an experienced gardener, or just beginning, you should keep these tips in mind:
Dress to Protect
Gear up to protect yourself from lawn and garden pests, harmful chemicals, sharp or motorized equipment, insects, and harmful rays of too much sun.
Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants to prevent injury when using power tools and equipment.
Protect your hearing when using machinery. If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.
Wear gardening gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations, cuts, and certain contaminants.
Use insect repellent containing DEET. Protect yourself from diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks. Wear long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked in your socks. You may also want to wear high rubber boots since ticks are usually located close to the ground.
UV Rays Can Cause Sunburn and Skin Cancer
Lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Gardening in the sun can be harsh on seniors’ skin which is more sensitive to light. Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades, and sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 30 or higher.
Use Ergonomic Tools
Gardening can be very hard on seniors’ backs, hands and wrists. However, with the right tools, gardening can be made more comfortable and enjoyable. Bottom line: these items really make a difference in the gardening experience.
Things to Try:
This KI Store Super thick and shock-absorbing 2.36” high density memory foam kneeling pad with EVA foam protects knees comfortably from hard and uneven ground.
Its double water-resistant layer protection and easy clean exterior and removable and washable, quick-drying neoprene covered means it effectively block the water. The water-resistant interior layer prevents foam swelling if water seeps through seam.
This pad is portable, easy to clean and light weight (just as the size of briefcases when folded).
Switch up your Routine
Gardening can be more strenuous than you may realize. If you haven’t been outside in a while and haven’t been getting regular exercise, your best bet is to pace yourself and do a little at a time.
Consider changing both your position and activity every 20 to 30 minutes and take a 10-minute break between switching. Tending to your garden can involve a lot of bending, lifting, and pulling which can leave you sore the following day if you overdo it, so it is important to listen to your body and slow down whenever you feel you need to.
To get a more well-rounded exercise and rest your back, rotate your daily gardening routine. Work on ground plants one day and then on stand and work on vines and trees the next. Switching things up will work out various muscle groups while giving the other group a rest on alternate days.
Gardening in the morning when temperatures are lower can reduce chance of heat exhaustion or any other sun-exposure related issues. Start your morning in a relaxing way by working in the garden.
Know Your Limits and Stay Hydrated
Even being out for short periods of time in high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Monitor your activities and time in the sun to lower your risk for heat-related illness.
If you’re outside in hot weather for most of the day you’ll need to make an effort to drink more fluids.
Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, especially in the heat.
Take breaks often. Try to rest in shaded areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.
Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including extremely high body temperature, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness.
Eat healthy foods to help keep you energized.
It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re gardening, especially for seniors. Be sure to bring a large bottle of water and maybe even a light snack to stay hydrated on sunny days and prevent dehydration.
Work at the Right Pace
As a senior, you may not be able to work at the same pace or rate that you used to, so don’t be hard on your self. Work at a comfortable pace that is safe for your physical condition, take breaks when you need to and don’t push yourself! Progress is progress no matter what!
Bring your Cellphone
Bring your cellphone in case of unexpected falls or accidents so that you can easily call for help.
If you’re looking for a new cell phone, I highly recommend the GreatCall Jitterbug Smart Phone for Seniors. This is the phone my Dad uses, and he has been so pleased with both the way it functions and the customer service.
Make it a Social Activity
Try inviting a family member, neighbor or friend to garden with you. You can exchange tips and knowledge about gardening and both benefit from the finished product of their work. You can even share lunch afterword!
Safety Proof your Garden
Outdoor spaces have major potential for accidents. Before you begin working in your garden, make sure there aren’t any rocks or roots in your path that could lead to falls. Also, be sure to look out for slick spots or forgotten tools that could cause you to trip or slip.
Attend to Injuries
If an elderly gardener has pre-existing injuries or develops injuries while gardening, tend to them immediately and take a break from gardening if necessary. Whether a cut, bruise, or bite, take care of it before you begin to work again. Gardening with open wounds can easily lead to infection, especially in seniors with weakened immune systems. Have an all purpose household first aid kit available, as well as some insect repellent and insect bite cream.
Consider These Gardening Styles
Raised Gardening Beds
A raised bed is a good way to alleviate some of the strain that can come along with plants that are lower and close to the ground. With a rectangular shaped planting bed, you can find a chair or board so that you can sit and garden from a more comfortable, less strenuous position. Ideally, the width should be about arms length so that you can access the plants without risking losing your balance as you reach across.
Vertical gardens are also more convenient for seniors who may be less agile and have a harder time bending and moving around as much. This type of gardening is ideal for vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, zucchini as well as different kinds of melons. You can tend to these gardens from your feet without needing to crouch all the way down to the ground. Some other added benefits of a vertical garden are the fact that they take up very little space and also get more sunshine than regular beds.
Create a Garden that You Can Maintain
Certain types of plants can require a lot of time and maintenance. Some will need a lot of water and you may not be equipped to carry a hose or a heavy watering can around. Before you decide what you will have in your garden, be sure to research what the upkeep will consist of and determine whether or not you’re physically capable of handling it yourself.
For research and inspiration, I recommend Better Homes Gardening Made Simple: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Gardening.
This is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to creating beautiful gardens, including all the basics of planting, growing, and caring for trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, lawns and other greenery. This book has plenty of clear and explanatory full-color photographs, and it gives beginners the inspiration and simple guidance they need.
Just In Case
If you are going out to the garden alone, you should have access to either a cell phone or a medical alert system. Doing so will ensure that you can get the necessary assistance if you fall or feel like you may be suffering from any ailment caused by the heat.
Example: This Senior Help Dialer system has no contract or monthly fees, and comes with a panic button unit for your wrist and neck. If you get into trouble, it instantly calls up to 3 phone numbers and plays your personalized emergency message. It’s water proof and pacemaker safe.
Gardening provides many mental and physical benefits for seniors. Not only is it a great way to stay active and get outside, but gardening can improve overall mobility, dexterity and reduce stress.
Creating a garden can turn into one of your favorite hobbies and can even improve the way you eat if you can grow fresh fruits and vegetables of your own. You will feel motivated and encouraged by the progress of your plants and will also feel better physically.
Sticking to good safety habits in the process will help to ensure that you can enjoy your garden for many years. Follow these simple tips to ensure that you or your elderly loved one can garden safely and enjoy their time.
Thanks for visiting and reading …
I hope this article provided you some inspiration to get out in the dirt. I welcome your comments below.
P.S. For an excellent selection of anything and everything you need to get gardening (and things you didn’t know you needed!), check out Amazon’s Gardening Products!
You may also be interested in: