Many people enjoy gardening. It’s rewarding to nurture a cluster of seeds and baby plants along until you get tasty fruit or beautiful flowers. When you’re used to gardening throughout your lifetime, getting older and finding that you’re unable to continue can be very distressing. It’s just one more thing an elderly person has to give up.
When my dad moved into his senior independent apartment, the complex had just installed several raised beds so the residents could continue to enjoy their hobby. Each person who signed up got a small area in the raised beds that they could call their own.
The complex put benches alongside the beds so the seniors could sit comfortably while they worked the soil. It was a brilliant idea and it didn’t take long before greenery and flowers filled the beds.
If your elderly parent (or a senior you know) has had to reduce how much they garden or stop it altogether because they can’t physically manage it any longer, read on for some great ways to give the hobby of gardening back to them.
Things like the Peta Easi-Grip garden tools (set of three) from The Wright Stuff, come with ergonomic handles that are specifically made for gardeners with arthritis.
They give the senior extra gripping power because the upright handles keep the wrist in a neutral position, which reduces the strain and discomfort of digging in the dirt.
The non-slip grip is thicker than the handle on a standard gardening tool, so the person using it doesn’t have to close their fingers as tightly in order to hold it.
Depending on the product, sometimes a support cuff can be attached to certain tools (like these three in the photo). A support cuff transfers power to the person’s upper arm and forearm which spreads the force of the work between the arm and a weaker hand.
Additionally, people who can’t bend down to garden can find these same tools with longer handles to decrease bending and stretching.
Another gardening product that is helpful for those with arthritis is the correct type of gardening gloves.
Gloves made for those with arthritis are specially padded to provide relief for sore hands when gardening. The pads help decrease blisters and give the user extra support. They also provide mild compression to reduce pain.
Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden beds are great if the senior can no longer sit or kneel in the garden.
You can either build a raised garden bed like my dad’s complex did, or you can buy a pre-made elevated garden bed. If you purchase a raised bed, make sure it will be sturdy enough to hold the weight of dirt, plants, and water.
A raised planter is great for a senior who has an apartment with a balcony or for someone who would mostly be gardening on their patio. This kind will hold a few plant varieties but isn’t too big. The raised planter in the image to the right has legs that can be removed for storage during the winter. It’s also made of resin so it won’t crack, rot, or peel.
Another option to raise a garden are any of the vertical garden beds.
These can range from 3 planters to 5 planters and of course, some are larger than others. But they are a great option for tending to a garden (indoors or outdoors) but yet eliminating the need to get down to the ground.
If needed, the lowest level could be left empty or could be used to house some tools (as long as they are easy and safe to reach for).
The one pictured here is an example of a 5 planter vertical garden bed. Easy to put together and I think it would be a wonderful option for any senior gardener.
If there’s room, I would certainly encourage you to add a small table of some type next to this garden bed so that there is somewhere to place the tools, water and supplies as needed.
Of course, if you can place this near a water source like a hose or sink, that would be great too. The less walking and carrying that the gardener has to do, the better (just for safety sake).
There’s a little more on vertical gardens further down on this page.
Garden Benches Or Carts
You should also install or place “benches” on the sides of these raised garden beds – or consider a rolling work seat (see image on the left) like the Step 2 Garden Hopper (check the price online). Our neighbor has one and swears by it.
This item can be carried, but it can also simply be pushed to where the gardener needs it. The Garden Hopper holds up to 250 pounds of weight, although we found that it starts to bog down and not roll as well for people who weigh in the 200 – 230 pound and up range.
It has large wheels on it, so our neighbor has found that it rolls as well in the grass as it does on the cement path along her flower bed. She can put her gardening gloves, trowel, clippers, etc in the small storage area, which reduces the number of trips she has to make to her garage for tools.
Potted plants are heavy. It’s one thing if they are always going to sit in the same spot, but if they need to be moved periodically (for example: brought inside from the porch for the winter), there’s a potential for injury. You can minimize the risk by putting the plant containers on caddies (also called planter dollies).
Before ordering one online or picking a few up at your local home store, be sure to measure the base of the pots so you know what size you need. Plant caddies range in size from about 11 inches to around 24 inches in diameter. A good example of one to look for is the Devault 722802 16in Plant Dolly is weather-resistant, low-profile and not too noticeable, and can hold up to 300 pounds.
Indoor Plant Watering System
For indoor plants, you can use a self watering system. Use something like indoor plant watering globes. I have these myself and they make life easier for me (and make my plants happy).
To do this, fill any long-necked bottle with water (you can use either plastic or glass), then invert it into a plant watering stake that you place into the soil.
If you use an empty wine bottle, you can get almost two full weeks of watering by using it this way. The caution here is that glass bottles filled with water are heavy, so a senior with arthritic fingers or weak hands should only fill the bottle halfway. They’ll have to water more often, but this will decrease the chance of broken bottles.
A coiled hose is a worthwhile tool. Because it’s coiled, it helps to prevent the usual untangling and dragging which can compromise a senior’s balance. Another safety feature is that it retracts after the gardener is done using it, which makes storage easy.
I bought this particular hose for myself and my elderly neighbor used it once and fell in love with it so I bought her one too. She has sung it’s praises to me several times. It’s lightweight, easy to manage, expands when you turn the water on and returns back to it’s original size when the water is off.
One note I will tell you. When you are using this hose and you turn the water off. Make sure to use the spray nozzle to remove any remaining water that is left in the hose, otherwise it will not recoil to it’s original shape.
A vertical garden is a great way to “garden” without having to bend down. Yes, elevated garden beds are also a great way to do this but sometimes there just isn’t enough room, time, money to build or buy elevated beds. So, a vertical garden is an excellent solution. I have two stackable vertical garden planters that I use on my deck.
My mom was the one who discovered them. She got me one for Mother’s Day one year (and got one for herself). I inherited hers after she passed away.
She loved the fact that she could put it on a raised plant stand and fill it with flowers. I continue the tradition every springs and can enjoy overflowing blooms from spring through the first frost.
I have always been a big fan of aprons and tool belts. Having one makes carrying things so easy. The same is true for gardening. I know there are bags that hold gardening tools and these are fine – but if balance is a problem for your elderly parent, the less you can ask them to bend down the better. So, an apron made just for gardening tools is the way to go.
It’s important that a senior be able to do the things they enjoy for as long as they are physically able. Whether your senior parent is moving in with you or is aging in place in their own home, helps them assess their needs, wants, and ability (function-level) so they can continue to enjoy their hobby safely. For more ideas, read our article about making gardening easier for seniors.