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June 11, 2021

Why retirement communities with gardening and other outdoor activities are growing in popularity

Summer is particularly welcome this year after the months of cold weather and time spent isolating during the pandemic. Many of us are itching to enjoy outdoor activities and time together in warmer weather.

Seniors can find many benefits spending time in nature. Retirement communities with gardening, outdoor games, fitness programs and walking trails provide fantastic resources that encourage residents to spend time in the great outdoors. 

Retirement communities with gardening are particularly busy this time of year. Residents plant their favorite produce and beautify campuses with container gardens bursting with flowers. The entire season is spent taking care of the garden so everyone can share in enjoying the harvest. 

Retirement communities with gardening also provide a sense of accomplishment for older adults who, in addition to sharing the harvest, observe the fruits of their labor throughout the growing season. A Dynamic Living co-worker at Country Meadows says, “Our residents take so much pride in the campus gardens. Once grown, we will be able to use [the produce] in meals and in preparing healthy, happy hour appetizers.”

In addition to gardening, older adults in active adult communities can improve health in many ways, simply by going outside. Several Country Meadows campuses have outdoor amenities such as bocce ball courts, horseshoe pits and walking trails to encourage comradery while being active. One resident says, “I enjoy being outside playing a friendly game of horseshoes or taking a balance class under sunny, blue skies.” 

There are many benefits, in addition to having fun, when spending time outdoors. 

Retirement communities with gardening encourage social connections

Retirement communities with gardening beds and walking trails provide spaces for positive social encounters between residents while tending plants, walking, or simply observing nature, thus increasing quality of life in our aging population. 

Improving physical fitness

Retirement communities with gardening and walking trails naturally provide ways for residents to engage in low-intensity exercise. Since tending a garden requires almost daily chores, tending the garden provides daily exercise. If you are looking for fun additions to a walk, seniors participate in bird walks to identify different species and listen to their melodious calls while strolling in nature. 

In fact, doctors in Scotland are now authorized to prescribe nature to their patients, citing the numerous health benefits of engaging with nature. 

Retirement communities with gardening can help improve the mood of residents

A study from the University of Michigan found that group nature walks are linked with significantly lower levels of depression and stress as well as improved mental health and well-being. The study notes that people who experienced stressful life events like serious illness, death of a loved one or other traumatic events especially noticed a mood boost after walking outdoors with others. Retirement communities with gardening and group walks on a regular basis provide opportunities for residents to make friends while caring for personal health. 

In a Dutch study, researchers split participants into two groups. One group read indoors while the second group gardened outdoors for 30 minutes. While the group that read reported their mood deteriorated, the retirement communities with gardening group reported feeling fully restored and had lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone). 

Enjoying better sleep

When we spend time outdoors, we tend to be more physically active. Research demonstrates that the more we exercise, we get better, more restful sleep. Many senior care services note residents tend to sleep better when engaged in outdoor activities. 

Increasing vitamin D and immune function

Seniors are at high risk for vitamin D Deficiency. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is not common in many foods, and it is very important to help combat osteoporosis, muscle weakness, hip fractures, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and poor general health.  Sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D. Researchers suggest that it takes up to 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week to produce a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Retirement communities with gardening chores aid in giving seniors a reason to spend time outdoors. 

How seniors in retirement communities with gardening can practice caution while working outside

While spending time outdoors has many health benefits, it can be dangerous for older adults on very hot days. Retirement communities with gardening activities frequently remind residents to stay inside on hot, humid days and ask staff members to tend to garden chores. If a resident insists on going outside, plan activities either early in the morning or when the sun starts to set and stay hydrated.

Country Meadows has nine locations in Pennsylvania and one campus location in Frederick, Maryland. Often referred to as one of the best retirement communities in the area, we offer a wide range of services to serve a variety of resident needs. The services within our communities include restorative care, rehabilitation, personal care and assisted living, memory support and independent living. If you or a loved one are beginning the retirement planning journey and would like more information on retirement communities with gardening or other activities, please contact us today. Our co-workers can provide details on the services we offer, help you to schedule a tour of our communities and answer any other questions you might have.


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