How Gardening Helps Seniors with Memory Loss in Houston

Working in the dirt and witnessing the fruits of your labor is one of life’s finest rewards. It’s something many of us take for granted, but for seniors experiencing memory loss, gardening can be a place of solace. At Houston’s Pathways Memory Care, it’s a way of life.

As noted biographer Jenny Uglow mentioned, “We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.”

What gives seniors a green thumb?

Gardening does not need to involve reaping award-winning tomatoes or growing the most beautiful rose. Gardening is about being in nature, being in a positive mindset, and being in the moment. Anyone can participate and feel those rewards almost immediately.

A study from Australia discovered that “gardening as a leisure pursuit may maintain or promote an older adult’s psychosocial and physical functioning and therefore enhance their quality of life.” While 69 percent of participants said they felt about the same after gardening for one year, 16 percent believed the activity improved their lives.

For seniors, the health benefits of cultivating include:

  • Exposure to soil containing Mycobacterium vaccae, the good bacteria for a better immune system
  • Exercise and strength building
  • Soaking up vitamin D
  • Enjoying nutritious foods

Why is gardening good for seniors with memory loss?

For those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, activating the senses can do wonders for their mood and appreciation for life.

Sight
  • The visual stimulation of plants growing increases serotonin
  • May trigger memories and experiences
Sound
  • Gardening is a low-noise activity
  • The absence of sound can be calming for people with dementia
  • Quiet environments can increase communication
Touch
  • Feeling the plants and soil helps establish an emotional connection
  • Touch can produce tactile memories and offer another way of viewing the world
Smell
  • Smell is one of the most vital senses for drawing on memory
  • Dementia is reported to reduce the sense of smell earlier than other senses; being able to smell the roses can continue to stimulate the olfactory bulb
Taste

How does Pathways Memory Care provide gardening for those with dementia?

Gardening gives people a sense of purpose. It’s an activity that promotes social interaction and belonging. It can help people experiencing dementia learn something new or relearn something they once loved.

At Pathways, we maintain a 1200 square foot greenhouse with the help of Interior Landscaping of Houston.

Pathways Memory Care | Greenhouse
We provide a multi-sensory engagement to increase verbal expression and activate memory recall.

Working with the vegetation improves mood and increases the quality of life for our residents.

What are other benefits of gardening for seniors?

  • Gardening can lower the risk of dementia. The level of hand/eye coordination associated with sensory awareness is a factor in warding off cognitive impairments. For example, digging while responding to conversation keeps the mind keen.
  • Serotonin levels increase with gardening. People with dementia experience changes in their sleep patterns, mood, and appetite due to decreasing levels of serotonin. Findings from Johns Hopkins suggest stimulating more serotonin early on can reduce the chance for dementia.
  • Increased physical activity and use of fine motor skills can prevent or slow dementia progress. Gardening is just one of the many activities Pathways provides for our residents. Gardening is a perfect exercise in promoting activity and fine motor skills. There is encouraging evidence suggesting that engaging these qualities can reduce Alzheimer’s effects.

 

Where can I learn more about gardening for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia?

You can visit the community nurtured by its garden at Pathways Memory Care. We’ll be so excited to show you our greenhouse and everything else that makes our community such a great resource for families living with dementia. Contact us to set up a meeting today. You can also see what we’re growing on Facebook.

Please note that Pathways Memory Care and its management company, Proveer Senior Living, use cookies as outlined in Proveer Senior Living’s Privacy Policy, where you can individually opt out of this practice. By continuing to browse Pathways Memory Care’s website, you agree to its use of cookies.

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