In many places “third object modality” therapies are standard forms of treatment. Wow, big words – boil it down and you start to think of activities and hobbies as a way to help us live better. In our world of caring for the elderly in their homes, most of us probably don’t consider the positive effects of using these tools (at whatever level possible) as a means to help.
However, when winter approaches in many areas of the country, we begin wondering about the indoor activities our care recipients could become involved with that could not only occupy their time, but also provide some relief from spending endless hours indoors watching television, or some other indifferent type of activity that is not fulfilling or helping to provide them a better life.
Gardening is one of those activities that transcend the physical walls of our homes. It is both an indoor and an outdoor activity, allowing it to adapt itself to the needs of the “gardener.” Gardening offers, at the same time, an opportunity to improve the environment by growing plants to actually give back to the world (in the form of oxygen). It offers the gardener the chance to improve their own health, for example, through increased physical activity (at whatever level possible), improve balance and mobility, as well as their emotional health – it feels good to grow plants. In addition, working with plants, whether indoors or out, provides many therapeutic benefits, also.
Some benefits might include, a generalized calming effect, a potential of lowering of the care recipient’s blood pressure, increasing self-esteem, reducing stress, reducing the effects of depression, etc., etc. The list is nearly endless. Gardening is simply good for the body and good for the soul.
When care recipients are shut in all day (especially in inclement weather), they experience a major loss in vital life experiences, such as reduced time with friends, neighbors, and family. They also are then subject to the loss of such physical activities as walking around the block, going to the store as often or even outdoor gardening. Boredom can set in with a possible result being depression. Isolation can eat away at the moral spirit of a person, constantly tearing at their ability to be positive and creative in life. Indoor gardening can reduce the effects of such isolation and actually provide a positive affect in the elderly home-bound person.
There can be an increase in life and hope seen through the growing of plants. The care recipient’s acceptance of the responsibility for the life of the plants they are growing can bring a new sense of “spirit” or purpose that was once thought to have been long gone.
Gardening is a means to increase independence in otherwise seemingly dependent people. It can draw people out of their shells. Simply stated, there is no place for ageism in gardening – it dispels the stereotypes we hold for any age group. Gardening is a unisex activity. It is a universal activity. It is our route and our future all at the same time. Nearly everyone loves plants. Not all people are gardeners, but all people could be gardeners . . . And maybe we all should be gardeners.