Home & Garden

Take a health break out in the garden

Gardening and gardens have become an important form of physical therapy, particularly for seniors. These plant-centric spaces offer exercise as well as emotional support. Naturally quiet, they’re ideal for meditation. The shade of a familiar tree can be a haven for collecting thoughts or sharing memories.

“These healing gardens are very important, not just for patients, but for caregivers,” said Charlie Hall, Ellison Chairman in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University. “(They) reduce turnover of staff.”

Hall gave the keynote address at the 2015 Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium, held last weekend in Pasadena. An expert in the economics of gardening, Hall focused on the future of the nation’s horticulture industry, which was hit hard by the Great Recession. Historically, nurseries and landscape companies depended on new homes – needing new landscapes – for the bulk of their business. When home construction tanked, so did nurseries.

While other businesses have rebounded, the nursery industry has remained flat, Hall said. Yet opportunities await: No one loves gardening more than boomers and seniors over 70, he said. Boomers buy plants more than any other age group; half of them consider themselves “garden product buyers.”

And they’re not getting any younger. Combining that interest in gardening with the healing powers of outdoor spaces can be a powerful incentive for creating more healing gardens, Hall said. It’s not just emotional; it’s financial.

“These gardens promote faster healing,” he said. “They can help reduce drug use. (Patients) can get out of the hospital sooner. That’s all economic benefit as well as the emotional ones.”