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Aging in Place Gardening

My grandfather was a gardener from Sicily. He taught my father how to grow vegetables. My father taught me. Now that my dad is 90 years old, he can’t bend over like he used to (and get back up again!). His backyard garden sat empty.

I wanted him to continue his hobby of growing tomatoes, so I bought him a Grow Box™. I put it on a wall just off the deck by the kitchen window. That’s him in the picture below, checking out his crop.

By planning ahead you can continue to enjoy this hobby regardless of your physical condition or limitations.

Here are a few tips for gardening as we age.

  • Watch out for steps and steep inclines/declines. You may be in a wheel chair or have to use a walker or a cane at some point. So, you want to be able to come out of your home without having to negotiate steps. This may mean having a ramp installed and a no-step doorway from inside to outside.

  • Watch out for slippery pathways and loose footing. As we age we aren’t as sure-footed as we once were and we don’t want to slip and break a hip.

  • Build hand rails into the scenery. Make them less noticeable but easily reachable. The same with seating. We may need to take a rest from time to time and a nice bench strategically placed may add to the physical beauty of the garden and is also functional.

  • Have some shaded areas. Use umbrellas, pergolas, awnings or a gazebo so that you don’t get sunburned while enjoying your garden.

  • As we age, we can’t bend over like we used to. So have raised beds made for your flowers, vegetables and herb gardens.

Perhaps you can have low walls installed that are wide enough and sturdy enough to hold pots that you can plant in without bending over.

  • You can also have raised platforms or low walls built that you can put potted plants on so that you don’t have to bend over to work on them.

  • If you have an apartment, condo or home with a small backyard, potted herbs can be very decorative. Even potted herbs on your front porch can look beautiful and add some color.

  • Have a convenient water source (faucet) near your garden so that you don’t have to carry a watering can or hose very far. Have the water faucet raised to a comfortable level so that you don’t have to bend over to turn it on and off. Have a platform to place your watering can while filling it up. Have a stand for your hose and nozzle that makes watering easy.

  • You may even want to have an irrigation system installed that you can either turn on or goes on and off automatically at preset times.

  • Have convenient electrical outlets installed. You may have need for one and as we get older we don’t want to have to worry about extension cords and tripping over exposed wires.

  • Have a convenient place to store your tools. You may not want to have to haul them out of the garage every time you want to garden. There are plastic benches on wheels that you can store tools in and sit on while gardening. This is especially true if you are in an apartment or small house where you may not have a lot of storage.

  • There are mail order/internet companies that sell kits for growing vegetables, such as tomatoes. They come with plastic pots, tomato plants and instructions. You can find herbs to plant at your local grocery store or hardware store. You can even purchase kits to grow your own mushrooms on the internet!

  • Make your garden area comfortable by adding comfortable seating. As we age, sitting in our gardens can be very relaxing and gives us a sense of accomplishment as we look at the fruits of our labor. Being able to enjoy your garden is the key. Make it relaxing, functional, and accessible. Make it a place where you can entertain others.

  • Make certain that you have good lighting and install it at foot level so that you don’t trip.

  • You may want to install a security system with cameras and sensors to keep unwanted visitors away.

  • Enjoy your garden. You don't have to give up your hobby just because you/ve aged. Mark Shekerow is President of Caregiver Communications

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