Making gardening easier for the elderly

As I creep closer to social security age, I find that my arthritic fingers sometimes lack the dexterity to grab and pull weeds from my gardens.  Growing older brings on different constraints for many gardeners, like sore backs, knees or hips that won’t allow them to kneel in the garden or worse yet, rise from a kneeling position.  I decided that it is time to start planning for my future as an elderly gardener since growing and nurturing flowers and vegetables brings me personal satisfaction.  Coming up with ideas now that can help me in my senior years will give me time to institute the changes before they become a necessity.

Garden Hand Tools

Just like fat ink pens are easier for arthritic hands to use then slender pens, garden tools with large handles are easier to use.  A really great tip I learned from an Ohio State University fact sheet is to paint the handles of tools bright colors so they are easier to see.  This is a tip I can use now since my hand pruners have black handles; not too easy to see when I drop them on the soil (usually on purpose to focus on another task).  Instead of paint, I use colored electrical tape to wrap part of the garden tool handle.
 
Not one to tuck garden hand tools into my pocket, I came up with an idea to tote tools in a two-pocket carpenter’s apron.  Instead of tying the apron around my waist, I tied a knot near the end of the two apron strings creating a strap that I can put over my head to carry like a shoulder bag.  Now I have two large pockets in which I can carry hand pruners, garden gloves, and my cell phone.
 
Raised Garden Beds

Raised garden beds involve creating a box shape, usually with pressure-treated wood, to elevate the planting area.   A raised garden bed eliminates the need to bend over to plant and pull weeds and a raised bed has the added value (at least in my case) of getting a planting area closer to the top of fence resulting in more sunshine.

Raised gardening can also be accomplished in pots.  A large pot for tall plants, like tomatoes, means no bending to care for the plants. Smaller pots can set on a platform, like cubed-shaped plastic milk crates or pressure treated lumber supported by cinder blocks.  This technique is working so well for me now that I plan to use more pots next planting season.


Mobility

Where walking around the garden isn’t a problem with me now, continually bending over to pull weeds is not fun for my back.  I started using a four-wheeled garden caddy that also has storage for small hand tools.  The caddy rolls on grass, soil or a sidewalk just by pushing my feet.  Being close to the ground using a caddy makes planting and weeding much less painful on my back.

Time in the Sun

The elderly have lowered ability to tolerate heat so it’s advisable to choose a time to be outside that is before or after the hottest time of the day in the summer which is between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.  My favorite time of the day to be in the garden is in the coolness of early morning, so that’s a current gardening routine that I will continue.