This post is sponsored by EcoScraps, but all opinions (as always!) are my own.
Gardening is a wonderful pastime for all ages. I personally enjoy planning, planting, maintaining and harvesting my large vegetable garden and taking care of the flower boxes and pots I decorate around my house with each year. Life is full of different stages, and each has it’s own unique challenges. Today I’m sharing some great benefits and tips about Gardening for Senior on behalf of the great folks at EcoScraps.
So who is EcoScraps? It is a really cool company that was started when two college students at an all-you-can-eat buffet noticed how much food was being wasted. Can you believe in the USA over 40% of the food produced is thrown out? Apparently that’s enough food to fill the Rose Bowl every single day. Ugh! Not only is it wasteful (which breaks my heart) but it also sits in landfills and breaks down into methane which is 20X more harmful than CO2. So what did Dan and Craig (the two college students) do?
They began to search for solutions. They learned that food waste, instead of clogging landfills and gassing the air we breathe, could be turned into beneficial gardening products. EcoScraps®, a brand that recycles food scraps into organic and sustainable lawn and garden products was born.
Since 2010, EcoScraps has been working to be a part of the solution by reusing this waste and keeping it out of the landfills. They want to make sustainability mainstream! Already the company has recycled 75 million lbs of food waste in four years–and they have an ambitious goal to recycle another 75 million lbs of food waste this year alone! (note: You can find Ecoscraps products at your local Walmart)
So let me tell you about Gardening for Seniors, then I’ll show you a really great project I did with my mom using EcoScraps products.
Now some of you out there might not be convinced that gardening is really the right “thing” for you. Before I dive into my tips let me do a bit to convince you that it has some amazing benefits for Seniors (or anyone really!).
The Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
1. It’s enjoyable exercise. Hey, if you are going to exercise where would you rather be? Inside a gym with music blaring, walking on a treadmill to nowhere. . . or out in the sunshine and fresh air, surrounded by green growing things and lovely smells?
2. Natural vitamin D from the sun can help reduce risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Exposing your limbs to the sun for just 10 minutes without sunscreen gives you enough vitamin D have these effects according to US News Health.
3. The movements of gardening can help prevent injury by increasing mobility and flexibility. These things contribute to older adults maintaining their independence.
4. Gardening eases stress and anxiety. As little as 30 minutes of gardening can decrease the stress hormone cortisol and improve mood.
5. Gardening regularly reduced heart attack and stroke risks and prolong life by up to 30% for adults over 60 This is according to a report cited in The Guardian.
6. “Friendly” soil bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae has been shown to help with psoriasis, allergies, asthma and even depression.
Those are some incredible benefits from gardening. Let’s face it–if I could wrap all that up in a pill and sell it, people would be lining up around the block to buy it. But you don’t have to buy a pill–you just have to get outside and do a bit of gardening! Now that I have you convinced. . . what are some ways to make gardening easier and more enjoyable for seniors and retirees?
Gardening Tips for Seniors
1. Think of Gardening as a sport. Sure, gardening might be gentle activity compared to, oh, playing a soccer match. There is still plenty of up, down, twisting side to side, lifting, reaching and more when you garden. Consider “warming up” with some stretches or a walk around the block before you begin.
2. Switch it up. Don’t spend too much time in one position (like on your knees weeding) and don’t do the same activities for several days in a row. Try to plan your work to use different muscle groups each day.
3. Use raised beds. By lifting the “surface” of your garden with a raised bed, you can decrease the amount of strain you put on your back from repeatedly bending over. Who doesn’t need less strain on their back?
4. Protect your knees. Keep your joints happy with a cushion or some knee pads. You can even improvise with an old deck chair cushion.
5. Wear supportive shoes. This isn’t the time for flip flops or sandals. You need good, stable shoes that you can navigate uneven ground with. Having a fall will not improve your garden experience.
6. Let leverage work for you. By picking tools with longer handles you can get a better grip and more leverage. That means less effort on your part!
7. Stay hydrated. Keep some water with you while you work, and during the hotter months do your work early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the worst heat (and risk of dehydration).
So on to my EcoScraps project. I decided to take my own advice about using raised beds and put one together for my beautiful and energetic retiree mom. Well, she keeps saying she’s retired. . . and then working 3 or more days a week for the hospital per diem (she’s a nurse).
I started with a 4X4 cedar raised bed kit from Walmart. This thing was great–you just slid the boards into the corner pieces–not a nail or screw was needed. That’s my kind of carpentry. The spot we chose had actually been covered with a tarp for two years to kill off some obnoxious ornamental clumping bamboo someone had planted. Ick. We had leveled the ground a bit (it was pretty level already but a spade and moving a couple shovels of dirt around fixed it up). After setting the bed kit up we lined the bottom with paper bags (newspaper or weed cloth would work as well, although weed cloth will not compost down the way the paper will) and wet it very well.
Then it was time to fill with soil. I knew I had a 4’x4′ bed. . . so how much soil did I need? I did a bit of an internet search and found a nifty cubic foot calculator by inches that the Army has set up online for some reason. It is very basic, but it did the job. I had figured I need 17 bags of EcoScraps Potting soil from Walmart.
Big bags of potting soil are heavy, so this is a good time for seniors to have a bit of help with the toting and carrying. I let the guys at Walmart help me load it into my vehicle, and when I got to my mom’s house we (I) used a hand truck to move it two bags at a time over to the bed. We let the bed settle overnight and then the next day my Mom planted it up with some cool weather seedlings like lettuce and broccoli (it’s still a bit early for planting here in NY–you can’t even think about putting tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers out until Memorial Day). So now with only about two hours of work (and most of that was moving the bags around and dumping them in the box) my mom has a great gardening bed that wont’ give her an ache in the back!
I really love the philosophy behind EcoScraps. It makes me feel very satisfied to know that the potting soil I chose is so sustainable and will help keep usable materials out of landfills.
I’d like to finish off with this cute video explaining Ecoscraps: