Gardening is associated with physical, psychological, and social benefits, but few studies have systematically investigated the benefits of gardening for older adults. In a recent study taking place in Australia, investigators examined the relationship between gardening and numerous outcomes. The researchers also compared older adults who gardened in a group to persons who gardened solo.
Researchers sought self-identified gardeners age 60 and better who gardened either at home or in a community gardening group for at least one hour a week. They recruited participants through gardening clubs, groups for older adults, research databases, and by word of mouth. A total of 331 individuals participated in the study. Participants filled out a survey about gardening activities, gardening benefits, health and well-being, and perceptions of aging. The gardening benefits questionnaire measured participants’ opinions related to gardening’s restorative, physical, spiritual, and social benefits; attachment to gardening; sense of purpose related to gardening; and the shared experience of gardening. The gardening activities inventory assessed the diverse kinds of gardening activities participants engaged in. This included active activities such as weeding and mowing the lawn, as well as sedentary activities such as admiring plants and flowers, watering plants, and flower arranging.
Participants ranged in age from 60 to 95, with more than 90% living in an urban area. Their gardens varied considerably in size and type, from balconies with potted plants to quarter-acre gardens. Overall, the researchers found that gardening activities were associated with physical, psychological, and social benefits. As participants increased the amount of time spent gardening, they accrued greater psychological and physical benefits. Restorative benefits (such as relaxation, a sense of peace, improved mood) and physical benefits were associated with positive perceptions of aging. In addition, being a member of a gardening club was associated with social benefits (e.g., increased social connectedness) and identity benefits (e.g., feeling a sense of pride in one’s garden). The study authors suggested that gardening be considered a population-level intervention to help promote health and well-being among all older adults.