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My garden does not whet the appetite; it satisfies it. It does not provoke thirst through heedless indulgence, but slakes it by proffering its natural remedy. Amid such pleasures as these have I grown old.
– Epicurus

A recent study in the American Heart Association’s Journal Circulation, found that heart health can be improved by regularly engaging in leisure and household activities such as gardening.

Gardening is not new to rehabilitation.  Spending time outdoors, embracing nature and actively engaging in an pastime seems intuitive to good health.

Still, it is sometimes overlooked as one of the best natural remedies that can help in fighting health problems associated with old age and dementia. Gardening can provide the health and fitness a person requires to stay active. The effects of gardening are rejuvenating for the elderly.

Unlike previous research, Circulation  tracked participants for over 10 years and demonstrated that activity over the long haul consistently  reduced inflammatory markers and therefore may be important in preventing physical effects related with ageing.

Previously, Virginia Tech had issued a related study on the benefits of horticulture therapy. It concluded that the benefits included:

  • improvement in attention
  • reduction of pain symptoms
  • lessening of stress
  • modulation of agitation
  • reduction in medications needed
  • improvements in symptoms of dementia
  • reduction in number of falls

These successes are popping up in the news more and more.  Today, for instance, a U.K. man shared his ability to overcome depression through gardening.

However, one report found that not all gardens are equally beneficial. “Among their findings: users mostly visited gardens seeking relaxation and restoration from mental and emotional fatigue. Tree-bordered vistas of fountains or other water features, along with lush, multi-layered greenery of mature trees and flowering plants, appealed most.”

Other researchers found that creating a standard checklist of features can ensure the healing power of gardens.  These elements include:

  • Lush greenery
  • Sculptures and variety in views
  • Atmosphere that facilitates interaction
  • Interactive engagement of multiple senses
  • Accessible entryways and pathways
  • Relaxing sounds

In addition to adapting garden spaces, tools and equipment too can be modified or adapted to help the elderly or disabled begin or continue gardening while reducing physical stress.

Please share your gardening health successes with us and tell us what gardening means to you.

Conflict of interests

[Photo Credit: HyperBob, Flickr]

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Recently, a law professor in Iowa has been encouraging nursing homes in the U.S. to extend their policies to allow residents to have pets. She has also been pushing for state legislation that would ease the ability for elders to move into their new homes with their furry friends.  The professor points to several studies that indicate the benefit of pets on the aging.

Feeding the dog

[Credit: Ed Yourdon]

 
According to such studies, pets have a very positive effect on the elderly:

1) Pets lower blood pressure and pulse rate
2) Patients with pets have 21% fewer visits to the doctor
3) Pets decrease depression and feelings of loneliness
4) They enhance social opportunities
5) Allow seniors to become more active
6) Pets offer affection and love
7) Pets ease bereavement of a loved one
8) Allow seniors to take better care of themselves
9) Provide a sense of security

Though a majority of aging care facilities still prohibit pets to make the transition with their owners, and reasonably so – some elders are too frail to take care of the pets, residents may have allergies that caregivers want to avoid, pets can carry illnesses, and facilities may not want to be burdened by the extra expense pets bring – the effects of these studies are touching hearts and catching on.

There are many options out there for promoting the use of pets in nursing-home care while maintaining the balance of your aging care community, and countries around the world are seeing the benefits:

Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer-based organization offers dogs as therapy by visiting nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities as needed.

In Scotland, an experimental program by Alzheimer’s Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled has been training dogs to help people with dementia.  The program will take affect this September with the aim of helping dementia patients maintain their routine and provide social benefits.

In Australia, the Center for Companion Health at The University of Queensland has been conducting research through clinical studies by bringing pets into hospitals and clinics.

In Japan, pets are quickly starting to outnumber people. Birth rates have been on a decline in Japan for several decades, and the aging community has found relief from loneliness in the companionship of pets.  Previously considered outdoor creatures, the Japanese are starting to welcome pets as one of the family, indoors.

Is this a growing trend in nursing homes and living facilities around the world or is it losing speed? Please share your experiences and stories of therapy pets in your region.

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at iahsa@leadingage.org.

Authors

Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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