Therapeutic benefits of gardening are numerous at all ages and abilities; however, balance, strength, and agility are needed which many individuals with disabilities lack. This can make lifting a bag of potting soil or pushing a wheelbarrow cumbersome or impossible. With arthritis and rheumatism, gardening is sometimes painful. Digging and repetitive motions may aggravate physical problems, causing many gardeners to stop an otherwise healthy activity.
Beyond being relaxing and healthy, gardening can be therapeutic in treating physical, emotional, cognitive, and social changes in the lives of individuals with disabilities. Many modifications in gardening practices and tools exist to aid people who may have limitations.
1: Gardening in raised beds filled with easily worked soil can allow disabled gardeners to continue activities from a wheelchair.
2: If bending over and kneeling causes problems for the gardener, a stool or knee pads may provide needed relief. There are many different varieties which allow the user to move the device with them easily or position the seating at variable height.
3: Adapted tools are becoming increasingly available. By using ergonomically designed tools correctly, stress on joints and muscles is reduced.
4: Purchasing materials in smaller packages avoids the stress of lifting heavy bags.
5: Garden carts are easier to pull than wheelbarrows and can hold gardening items which are too heavy to carry. There is a gardening pail which has different holders for tools. This can also be attached to a luggage carrier so the individual can hold the items rather than carry them.
6: Working for shorter lengths of time during the cooler morning and evening hours will lessen the effects of the heat. A short break for a drink of water or juice will help reduce the stress on the body and prevent dehydration.
7: Gardeners should wear lightweight, loose fitting clothes during the summer heat. Cotton clothing not only helps keep the gardener cool, but prevents exposure of skin to the sun’s damaging rays. Wide-brimmed hats and sun screen can further protect the skin. Also, a misting bottle or cloth soaked in cool water can be refreshing.
These practical suggestions can make gardening an enjoyable activity for many. The Internet provides a wide variety of resources and products for individuals with disabilities. The following are a couple to explore: Life with Ease Garden Tools Page, http://www.lifewithease.com/garden.html; Totally Living Gardening Page, http://www.totalliving.com/pages/Garden.html; Garden Buddy, http://www.lodgik.com/features.htm; Bionic Gloves, http://www.bionicgloves.com/?refer=AD; Adapted Gardening for Physically Challenged, http://wwwagcomm.ads.orst.edu/agcomwebfile/edmat/html/em/em8504/em8504.html
Some written resources are:
Adil, Janeen (1994) Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants. Woodbine House; Rothert, Gene (1994). Enabling Gardening: Creating Barrier-Free Gardens. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas.; Woy, Joann (1997). Accessible Gardening: Tips & Techniques for Seniors & the Disabled. Stackpole Books; Yeomons, Kathleen (1992). The Able Gardener: Overcoming Barriers of Age and Physical Limitations. Garden Way Publishing; Blease, Peter ed. (1990). Able to Garden: A Practical Guide for Disabled and Elderly Gardeners. Horticultural Therocey, Great Britain.
With summer fast approaching, it is a great time to start exploring and inventing new ways to garden. The benefits are multi-fold for the senses and mind.