Gardening is often recommended as a way for seniors to remain physically active and eat healthier, but many people may not realize this activity actually has significant mental and emotional health benefits as well. Here are four cognitive benefits your elderly loved one can gain from maintaining a garden.
1. Increased Blood Flow to the Brain
The physical activity involved in gardening may lower your loved one’s risk of developing dementia. Two studies of people in their 60s and 70s found gardeners were 36 to 47 percent less likely to develop dementia than people who didn’t tend gardens. Even though the physical activity involved in gardening is typically moderate, it boosts oxygenation and the heart rate, which increases blood flow to all vital organs, including the brain.
Gardening is a wonderful activity for seniors with few physical limitations, but those with limited mobility may need other solutions for cognitive stimulation. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of at-home care. You can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.
2. Higher Serotonin Levels
Most gardeners will tell you the act of digging in the dirt relieves stress and boosts mood. Researchers are now suggesting an unusual explanation for why gardening may alleviate symptoms of stress and depression better than traditional cognitive behavior therapy. Soil contains a harmless bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae. When researchers injected these bacteria into mice, they noticed a marked increase in the release and metabolism of serotonin, a chemical that controls cognitive function and mood.
If your senior loved one needs help managing an illness or assistance with daily tasks, make sure you choose a top-rated provider of senior home care. Clearwater Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life in the golden years. From the mentally stimulating activities in our Cognitive Therapeutics Method to our friendly Care Managers who are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, we offer a wide array of high-quality at-home care services.
3. Enhanced Mental Stimulation
The act of gardening encourages seniors to be aware of their external environment. Gardening requires planning, problem solving, and the ability to learn new skills and information, which keeps the brain active and creates new neural pathways. To maintain a garden, your loved one will need to remember skills from the past and learn new techniques. Learning new things boosts brain function, and it may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Help your loved one out in the garden if necessary, but make sure to encourage him or her to use skills he or she acquired years ago while learning new techniques that can stimulate brain activity. Seniors who spend time gardening are also more likely to engage with others, which can preserve verbal and social skills.
4. Greater Anxiety Relief
The confusion and disorientation that often accompany dementia can cause a senior to become extremely anxious and agitated. The episodes can become more frequent as the condition progresses, and dementia can even result in physical aggression. The peaceful sights, sounds, and smells of a garden promote relaxation and can relieve anxiety in seniors with dementia. This is one reason so many residential homes for people with dementia offer memory gardens or wander gardens where residents can go for strolls without the fear of getting lost. If your loved one is receiving dementia care, he or she might benefit from having a garden in the yard for this purpose.
Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. Clearwater seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to promote cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (727) 330-7862 to learn more about our high-quality home care services.