In a 2008 report from the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that seniors lacking a large number of friends were more likely to deal with cognitive issues. Socialization also helps keep seniors from feeling depressed or lonely.
It's important for an elderly adult to have a wide network of friends. Community gardening is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to gain friends.
What is a Community Garden?
In a community garden, a group of people plant and maintain fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers in one shared plot of land. All maintenance of the garden is shared among the group of people. Typically, the senior rents a portion of a garden and has that area to grow whatever he or she desires. As crops grow, only a small portion of the garden must be maintained by the elder care professional and elderly adult.
How a Community Garden Promotes Socialization
As crops grow, it's very likely that one senior and an elderly care caregiver will end up with too much produce for one household. Swapping produce with others in the garden increases socialization as the gardeners spend time talking about what they've grown. As weeding, watering, and other gardening chores get completed, it's common to chat with other gardeners.
How Does One Know if Community Gardening is Right?
An adult child of a parent receiving home care may struggle to know if community gardening is the right choice. Generally, community gardens do have rules in place. Those rules typically include:
- A promise to pay community gardening dues prior to the start of the gardening season
- A promise to plant so that crops do not spread into neighboring garden areas
- A promise to weed, water, harvest, and tend to crops on a regular basis
- A promise to monitor grandchildren if they accompany the elderly adult
- A promise to only use natural insecticides
- A promise to use shared gardening tools properly and return them when done
- A promise to clear all plants from the garden at the end of the season
Providing family caregivers can help ensure these promises are met, community gardening is a great choice. There is a level of commitment, but the fresh produce makes it worthwhile.
Family caregivers should look for community gardens for the senior in their life. Being outside in the fresh air is beneficial, but the socialization gained as part of a community is invaluable.