How to Enjoy Gardening for Seniors
and the Physically Challenged
Are you in a wheelchair, and long to dig in the dirt and create
flowering beauty and grow far more zucchini than you can give away? Or
are your knees just starting to age and even though you've loved
gardening all your life, you're having more trouble getting up and
down and are afraid you'll have to give up gardening altogether? Did
you botch the last pruning of your roses because of the worsening
arthritis in your hands?
Welcome to the world of the physically challenged gardener.
Don't despair. Adapt!
There's plenty of help out there in the form of advice, tools, raised
flower beds and other specialized equipment. A Google search of
"Disabled gardening tools" leads to 125 websites with specific helpful
adaptive equipment. "Disabled gardening" gives a whopping 873,000
results where you can find advice and "handicapped gardening" yields
111,000. Let those arthritic fingers do your walking!
Problem: "The ground is just too far down there!"
Think about doing your gardening while sitting on a chair, instead of
on the ground, squatting or bending over. The most obvious solution is
to build raised flower beds and scatter containers throughout your
garden area. Buy cheap plastic outdoor chairs and place one beside
each mini-garden so you don't have to drag or carry when it's time to
weed. You can just sit down and enjoy the feel of moist earth beneath
your fingers and breathe in the heavenly smell of freshly applied fish
If you hang a cup holder on the edge of your container, you can even
have the luxury of tea or coffee with your weeds. Maybe the fish
emulsion should wait.
Don't think about what you've lost now that you can't crawl around
weeding the perennial border; teach your grandchild or a neighborhood
kid the joy to be found doing that task ... you've just discovered a
new adventure in gardening. The good news is that you may find whole
different special areas of your yard where you can stick a
Get creative. Put a beautiful container near your front door and plant
wonderfully scented flowers to greet your guests ... or perhaps a nice
cherry tomato plant they can steal from on their way to ring your
doorbell. Put a waist high herb garden right outside your kitchen door
and add an area in it for your favorite cut flowers.
When you're deciding where to locate the raised bed or container, be
sure to remember physically demanding practicalities like dragging a
heavy hose to water it. Think and plan a low energy solution for what
you'll do with the compost material.
Problem: "My painful hands don't have the strength for ..."
You can get tools which extend your arms to reach the ground level
flower bed from a sitting position. Several manufacturers make
specially tools with light weight handles designed to keep the wrist
and hand in a stress-free position and to provide a firmer grip.
Small, light rakes, hoes, etc. like this can work wonders.
Think ratchet pruner, ratchet lopping shears ... let the laws of
physics give your hands a hand. You'll be amazed when you look at the
tools available. Pull difficult weeds by stepping on a lever.
Problem: "I get so tired so quickly."
Hey, the weeds didn't grow all at once; you don't have to pull them
all at once. Pace yourself. Find ways to make gardening something you
do while you sit and drink a cup of tea and listen to the birds,
rather than a work chore you slave away at for a full afternoon. Pull
one weed from the scented garden near your front door on your way out
and another weed on the way in. Plant parsley in your kitchen door
herb garden while your toast is toasting and the coffee is dripping.
Buy and plant 3 packs of flowers instead of a whole flat. Take a nice
aerobic walk around your yard, stopping at a different container for 5
minutes "conversation" with your plants on each cycle, then go back
inside and plop on the recliner. You'll be amazed at how much gets
done in these mini-work sessions. Your heart will love you, too.
Remember, one of the nice things about flowers is they don't have
anything to prove. We can all learn a lesson from them.
About the Author:
Additional Information and
webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate