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Study: Gardening Inspires Wonder and Nourishes Relationships

 

As soon as the snow melts, Phyllis Watson begins to clear away the frozen leaves in her garden in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
18-month-old Sophie O' Flynn enjoys the garden of her great-grandmother Phyllis Watson in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

18-month-old Sophie O' Flynn enjoys the garden of her great-grandmother Phyllis Watson in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.


Watson spends the winter months planning, and she likes to visit the green houses as soon as they open for business.

"The work gets harder and takes longer," she said. "But I love gardening and can hardly wait for spring."

Among older adults, gardening is a highly popular leisure activity, and new research reveals gardening provides a host of physical and psychological benefits.

Benefits abound

A review paper published online in the journal Activities, Adaptation & Aging (June 14, 2013) has found a wide variety of gardening activities can:

  • provide opportunities for creativity and self-expression
  • boost self-esteem
  • encourage social interaction
  • enhance life satisfaction
  • provide moderate-to-rigorous exercise
  • improve physical function
  • increase strength and flexibility
  • improve eye-hand coordination
  • reduce stress
  • provide a spiritual outlet, and
  • foster intergenerational learning.

Researchers Donna Wang and Thalia Macmillan found that gardening encourages empathy and nourishes relationships. One man loved yellow roses because his late wife loved them.

Still others find their spiritual side by spending hours in a garden. As 100-year-old poet Stanley Kunitz wrote in The Wild Braid : "All my life, the garden has been a great teacher in everything I cherish."