I have a friend who has always been a vegetable gardener. One day he had a stroke and ended up in a wheelchair. His family had wooden boxes, like flower boxes, installed on a fence at the height he can reach around the paved patio. While still seated, he can plant and water his vegetables spring, summer and fall. And he is always proud of his tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and other vegetables he grows.
Has a loved one enjoyed gardening in the past, but is now physically challenged to get outdoors and tend flowers or vegetables as they have in the past? I recall reading a wonderful article in Birds & Blooms Magazine back in Feb. /March, 2009. In that article, “Gardening with Mom”, a caring daughter told how she helped her mother continue to enjoy gardening despite dementia and arthritis. The daughter, Peggy Rowe, marked the flowers in the flower beds which were Mom’s to tend with white plastic forks. When Mom sees the white plastic forks in the pot or flower bed, she knows that those are her seeds or potted plants. Mom invented her own way to hold up tall zinnias by wrapping the stems with bright Mardi Gras beads. Since her Mom has arthritis, her daughter found a watering can with a hole in the bottom. All Mom has to do to water is to hold up the water can and let it drip. Mom and daughter are able to garden together, and both enjoy the flowers and the time together.
I believe that gardening can be a wonderful escape from the worry and struggle that comes with being a dependent senior. Yet all us have our own set of problems. And we can all feel the relaxing relief when we dip our fingers in the soil,.. or marvel at the beauty of a single bloom that appeared overnight. Nature has a way of touching us,.. connecting us to the primal root of life, as it calls up a smile on your face and a spot of joy in your heart. That alone, can make this a good day.
This gardening thing is doable. It’s within the reach of masters and amateurs alike. What hinders you or your loved one from working in the yard or gardening?
Maybe there’s a way to overcome those obstacles. Putting potted plants on a porch or a plant stand can make them accessible and near the house. Maybe a watering wand can help the gardener reach the plants and water them. Perhaps a flower bed created by a paved walkway or patio area could bring gardening opportunities to someone using a walker or wheelchair. Look around gardening centers for equipment that would lift the plants to a desired height, or would make it easier for the person to get up and down while working the soil.
Not all gardening activities have to take place outdoors. Indoors, there are opportunities to read, write, talk, and teach about gardening with others who are like minded. Quite a few older, experienced folks offer their expertise in gardening through groups like Garden Clubs or the Master Gardener program of a state Agricultural Extension service. Possibly, you or your loved one could make the most of the gardening knowledge and talents by writing a newsletter article, answering questions by phone, participating in group meetings, or mentoring child gardeners.
Have you found a way to enjoy gardening despite physical or mental challenges? Please share it with us!