Gardening is often recommended as a way for seniors to remain physically active and eat healthier, but many may not realize this activity actually has significant mental and emotional health benefits as well. The staff at Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior care Phoenix families trust, has put together a list of 4 cognitive benefits your elderly loved one can gain from maintaining a garden.
1. Increased Blood Flow to the Brain
The physical activity involved in gardening may help lower your loved one’s risk of developing dementia. Two studies of people in their 60s and 70s found gardeners were 36 to 47 percent less likely to develop dementia than non-gardeners. Even though the physical activity involved in gardening is typically mild, it boosts oxygenation and the heart rate, which increases blood flow to all vital organs, including the brain.
2. Higher Serotonin Levels
Most gardeners will tell you the act of digging in the dirt relieves stress and boosts mood. Researchers are now suggesting an unusual reason why gardening may alleviate symptoms of stress and depression better than traditional cognitive behavior therapy. Soil contains a harmless bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae. When researchers injected these bacteria into mice, they noticed a marked increase in the release and metabolism of serotonin, a chemical that helps control cognitive function and mood.
3. Enhanced Mental Stimulation
The act of gardening encourages your loved one to be aware of his or her external environment. Gardening requires planning, problem solving, and the ability to learn new skills and information, which keeps the brain active and helps create new neural pathways. Seniors who spend time gardening are also more likely to engage with others, which helps preserve verbal and social skills.
4. Greater Anxiety Relief
The confusion and disorientation of dementia can cause a senior to become extremely anxious and agitated. The episodes can become more frequent as the condition progresses and can even result in physical aggression. The peaceful sights, sounds, and smells of a garden promote relaxation and can relieve anxiety in seniors with dementia. This is one reason why so many residential homes for people with dementia offer memory gardens or wander gardens where residents can go for a stroll without the fear of getting lost. If your loved one is receiving dementia home care in Phoenix, he or she might benefit from having a garden in the yard for this purpose.
Gardening is a wonderful activity for seniors with few physical limitations, but those with limited mobility may need other solutions for cognitive stimulation. The caregivers at Home Care Assistance can help. Using our revolutionary Cognitive Therapeutics Method, our caregivers can help slow cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia while helping your loved one with a wide array of daily tasks. For more information on live-in and part-time care Phoenix seniors can count on, call one of our experienced Care Managers at 602.388.1085 to schedule a free consultation.