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Enhance Nutrition for the Elderly through Gardening

Since we are easing into April, or Earth Month, after March was Nutrition Awareness Month, it seems fitting that we merge the two for a dual message that can easily apply to nutrition for the elderly in combination with the love of gardening.

If you think about it, many seniors were raised on farms, because there were no Publix or Walmart supermarkets to pick up dairy, produce and meat products. Fruits and vegetables were grown on trees and in gardens. They used few – if any – pesticides, resulting in more nutritious, organic harvests, than the hot-house, genetically-modified and chemically-enhanced versions we find plentiful in produce departments today.

Seniors ages 65 and over are at greater risk for disease thanks to minimal exercise, poor dietary habits and/or questionable lifestyle choices. By coupling moderate physical activity and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, a mature adult’s risk for many chronic diseases can be greatly reduced.

Researchers at Texas A&M and Texas University posted a survey on a college homepage for one month. Nearly 300 senior gardeners and non-gardeners responded. The study showed that gardening added “zeal” and “increased energy levels” amongst elderly gardeners.

According to Aime Sommerfeld, lead author of the study published in HortTechnology: “The primary focus of the study was to determine if gardening had a positive impact on perceptions of quality of life and levels of physical activity of older adults when compared with non-gardeners.”

More than 75 percent of gardeners who participated in the survey rated their health as ”very good” or ”excellent.” Gardeners also reported eating more fruit and vegetables because of their exposure to gardening. “These factors, in conjunction with higher physical activity, resulted in healthier lifestyles and increased quality of life,” the researchers wrote.

They continued, “This study presents strong evidence that gardening can be an effective way for older adults to increase life satisfaction while also increasing physical activity. “In a time when older adults are living longer and enjoying more free time, gardening offers the opportunity to fulfill needs created by changing lifestyles.”

“Gardening provides participants with opportunities to reconnect with themselves through nature, in a healthy activity, to enhance their quality of life,” Sommerfeld concluded.

If you know a special senior who loves gardening, but is no longer able to do so on their own, call the compassionate caregivers at Home Helpers. A perfectly-suited companion will happily get their hands dirty by getting them out in the garden, enhancing their quality of life, while promoting nutrition at the same time. 727-942-2539.