Adaptive Gardening: Tips and Tools for Older Gardeners
Can you recommend some good tools and tips for senior gardeners? My 77-year-old mother loves to work in the garden but has been plagued by injuries over the past few years.
Aches, pains and injuries are common among older gardeners. Because gardening is a physical activity that often requires a lot of bending, stooping, squatting, kneeling, gripping and lifting, it can be extremely taxing on the body.
Back pain and knee injuries are most common among older gardeners, along with carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. To help keep your mom injury-free this summer, here are some tips and gardening equipment ideas that can make gardening a little easier.
With gardening, it is important to maintain good form and not to overdo any one activity. Gardeners often kneel or squat, which puts extra pressure on their knees. Alternatively, standing and bending over for long periods of time to weed, dig and plant can strain the back and spine.
To help your mom protect her body, she needs to warm up before she begins her gardening activities. She should start by stretching, focusing on the legs and lower back. It is also important to keep changing positions and activities. She should not spend hours weeding a flowerbed. After 15 minutes of weeding, she should stand up, stretch and switch to another activity.
It is also important that she recognizes her physical limitations and does not try to do too much all at once. Additionally, when lifting heaver objects, she needs to remember to use her legs to preserve her back. She can do this by keeping the item close to her body and squatting to keep her back as vertical as possible.
The right gardening equipment can help too. Kneeling pads can protect knees, and garden seats or stools are both back and knee-savers. Lightweight garden carts can make hauling bags of mulch, dirt, plants or other heavy objects much easier. Long-handled gardening tools can help ease the strain on the back by keeping your mom in an upright standing position versus being bent over. There are also ergonomic gardening tools with thicker handles and other design features that can make lawn and garden activities a little easier.
The chore of carrying water or handling a heavy, awkward hose can be difficult for older gardeners. Some helpful options include lightweight fabric hoses instead of heavy rubber hoses; soaker or drip hoses that can be snaked throughout the garden; thin coil hoses that can be used on the patio or small areas; a hose caddy and reel for easier hose transport around the yard; or a self-winding hose chest that puts the hose up automatically. There are also a variety of ergonomic watering wands that are lightweight, easy to grip and can reach those hard to-get-to plants.
To find ergonomic gardening tools and the recommended watering aids, check with local retail stores that sell lawn and garden supplies or try online garden retailers.
If your mom's backyard garden has become too much for her to handle, she should consider elevated garden beds or container gardening, which uses big pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, barrels or tub planters. This is an easier way to garden because it eliminates much of the bending and straining and still allows your mom to plant and grow her plants. Trellises are another nice option that would allow her to plant her garden vertically instead of horizontally.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.