Retirement doesn’t mean sitting in your rocking chair, nor that the most exciting thing in your life has to be your weekly bingo game. Now is a great time to cultivate a new hobby, or revive an old one. Gardening offers a dynamic option that’s full of surprises, challenges, and year-round change, making it the perfect choice for seniors of all skill levels. Whether you grow a small row of seeds, tend to indoor orchids and succulents, or commit to a small farm in your backyard, virtually everyone can enjoy gardening. Even if you think you have a brown thumb, here are some reasons to give green-thumb life a try.
Eat What You Grow
If you grow fruits or vegetables, your harvest can feed your family. A well-maintained garden can save you $600 on groceries annually. Even if you’re not concerned about the grocery budget, there’s just no substitute for fresh produce. Bite into a warm, fresh summer tomato and the store-bought variety will just never taste the same again. And if you’re concerned about pesticides and fertilizers or want to lower your carbon footprint, gardening is a fun, easy way to control what's in your food and your yard.
Connecting with Nature
Spending time in nature is one of the best things you can do for your health. It lowers stress and improves mental health, while reducing your risk of common ailments such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It can also change your perspective. If you feel frustrated and annoyed by endless texts and the rapid pace of daily life, step outside, take a breath of fresh air, and slow down. Mindfulness is good for you. Slowing down your thoughts and spending time in nature may inspire new ideas, new hope, and a sunnier outlook.
Forty-four percent of senior men and 26 percent of senior women are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium, which makes it a vital ingredient in the recipe for preventing osteoporosis. It also supports a healthy immune system and can help fight inflammation. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. Spend just a few minutes in the sun each day and you’ll lower your risk of being deficient in this important vitamin.
Exercise will forever be one of the best things you can do to feel better and live longer. Not only does movement help you control your weight, but it can also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and numerous other conditions. Staying active also improves mental health and lowers your risk of depression and anxiety. The great thing about gardening is that you can customize the activity level to your ability level. Start slowly, walking around and pruning plants. As your strength builds, graduate to more challenging activities, such as squatting to sow seeds and digging in rocky soil.
Think gardening is only for the spring? Think again. When it gets too hot outside to spend hours planting, put on a sun hat and cut flowers for a few minutes. Then head inside to make delicious meals from your harvest. As winter looms, try taking a canning class so you can preserve your plants. Jellies and jams are also a great way to enjoy homegrown fruit year-round. And of course, you can force hyacinths, daffodils, and other bulbs inside under a grow light, or take up orchid or succulent growing during the cooler months.
Connecting with Others
Though gardening itself is a pretty solo activity, it gives you plenty of opportunities to form meaningful relationships with other people. Join your local garden club, or attend a seed swap. If you get really into gardening, you might even sell your best produce at the local farmers market. If you prefer a smaller-scale approach, try trading veggies with friends or making jam to give to your neighbors.
The right senior living community keeps you busy every day of the week, and offers special events and other fun on holidays. You can also garden in senior living. Try a small hydroponic grow station. Propagate succulents. Or invest in orchids. You might even start a garden club for other plant lovers. At Arbor, we believe that everyone deserves to pursue their retirement dreams. To learn more about making your retirement count, download our free guide, “Everything You Need to Know About Independent Living.”