Gardening is extremely beneficial to retirees, especially those with Alzheimer's, Dementia and other degenerative diseases. Here’s how a low maintenance green wall improves quality of life for residents in assisted living facilities.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, having plants nearby (whether at home or in your office) provides countless health benefits, and this rings even truer for the elderly. In fact gardening is incredibly therapeutic, and is often used in assisted living facilities as an outlet for patients suffering from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia interfere with a person’s cognitive ability, causing symptoms like mood swings, memory loss, social withdrawal and difficulty performing everyday tasks like driving, cooking and cleaning. Therapeutic gardening is an inexpensive, non-pharmacological treatment for degenerative diseases. It reduces symptoms and helps delay the disease’s progression.
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Having plants nearby doesn’t only help the elderly or patients with degenerative diseases. Green walls and gardening are also effective as part of a treatment plan for:
The benefits of green walls in an assisted living facility
A simple, soil-based green wall is a great tool for therapeutic gardening for the elderly. Unlike a traditional horizontal flower bed, a green wall is raised and doesn’t require patients to spend large amounts of time bent over on the ground. Additionally, the pots can be pre-planted so patients can work from the comfort of a chair at a table while planting.
How gardening helps patients with Alzheimer’s, Dementia and other degenerative diseases
According to Lakeside Manor, a San Diego Dementia care facility, therapeutic gardening reduces Dementia risk factors by up to 36%. Gardening provides a host of benefits for patients suffering from degenerative diseases, including the below.
- reduce stress, aggression and agitation
- increases social activity and decreases feelings of isolation, giving patients a sense of community
- improves memory and cognitive ability - and sometimes even helps to restore lost skills
- increase patients’ attention spans
- regenerate brain volume and gray matter
- increases physical activity and decreases pain, helping patients live a healthier lifestyle and decreasing the need for medication
- distract patients and prevents disorientation
- the process of emotional healing
Outdoor green walls are particularly beneficial, as exposure to sunlight helps improve patients’ mood, sleep cycles, appetite and bone density (preventing fractures and diseases like Osteoporosis).
The Alzheimer’s Society writes, “exercising in the garden helps develop the appetite, boosts energy levels and promotes a better night’s sleep. Maintaining, as far as possible, existing skills that give pleasure and confidence.”
Tips when choosing plants for a green wall in an assisted living facility:
Choose plants that are low maintenance. Patients should be able to enjoy the maximum benefits of their green wall and low maintenance plants will help them achieve this. Finicky plants that require a lot of time and expertise to look after will only cause frustration and disappointment.
Choose non-toxic plant varieties that don’t have thorns. When dealing with patients with degenerative diseases, it’s a good idea to safeguard against accidental ingestion of poisonous plants or injuries from sharp objects.
Use non-toxic, organic herbicides and pesticides. As with the point above, avoid exposing patients to any toxic or poisonous substances which could be ingested.
Choose a wide variety of colors and scents. Planting a variety of flowers with bright colors and strong scents will stimulate patients’ senses.
Choose plants that grow fast. This will give patients instant satisfaction as they’ll be able to see the results of their hard work.
- Plant veggies that can be used when preparing meals. This helps give patients a sense of purpose, as well as allowing them to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
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