Gardening: A Healthful Medicine for Seniors


Over the past year, I have been active with seniors presenting hands-on environmental projects at nursing and assisted living facilities.  I know as an environmental educator, working with the soil through gardening exercises promotes all over good health for people and the environment.

In today’s society, we as humans have detached ourselves from nature.  As we become more obsessed with technology we are becoming more deprived of the natural connection we have with the Earth, which is causing alarming effects to our health and the environment.

The senior population is among the 90% of people in the U.S. living indoors.  This causes extreme sedentary, disconnection, unhealthy and unnatural behaviors.

Studies show that seniors that garden or are involved in some kind of regular planting activities are happier, healthier, smarter and more alert then those who don’t.

Here are my top five reasons why gardening is good for our growing senior population.

  • The Soil-Mycobacterium Vaccae is a strain of bacterium found in all soil all over the world. Research shows that this bacterium elevates one’s mood and decreases anxiety by promoting happiness.
  • The physical activity associated with gardening helps lowers the risk of dementia. A recent study that followed a group of 60 and 70 year-olds for 16 years found that those who gardened regularly had a 36% to 47% lower risk for developing dementia then non-gardeners.
  • When gardening outdoors, the body is taking in natural vitamin D from the sun which absorbs into the body as calcium promoting strong and healthy bones and immune systems while supporting a better sleep.
  • When you dig, plant, weed, cultivate in the soil, it requires the individual to stretch the major muscle groups to complete the planting task; thus decreasing the risk of osteoporosis in seniors.
  • According to the American Heart Association, gardening can reduce the risk of stokes because planting and tending a garden is considered exercise like jogging and swimming.

Senior gardening is good medicine for the mind, body and soul, naturally.

Cathy Allen is an award-winning Urban Environmentalist, the co-creator of G.R.A.S.S. (Growing Resources After Sowing Seed) as well as Chair of the “Grow-It Eat It” campaign. G.R.A.S.S. is an environmental entrepreneurial nonprofit program based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology. In conjunction with Baltimore City Public Schools, Allen’s campaign has planted over a half-million trees on the lawns of Baltimore City public schools.}She can be reached at