Create a space for the one you love

Physical activity and social engagement are well-known secrets to graceful aging and retaining one’s sense of self later in life.  Even a short visit to a garden can lower blood pressure, improve vitamin D absorption, improve stability, and help with better sleep patterns.

Nature can provide spaces for temporary escape (actual or visual), and feelings of loneliness or boredom can be decreased in a garden that provides multiple places for socialization. 

Whether residing in a senior community or at home, a purposeful outdoor space can do wonders for seniors suffering the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The key to making outdoor spaces inviting to seniors is proper design and  implementation. Keeping garden layouts simple, functional and safe should be the main focus, concentrating on these three areas: (1) the entrance and exit to the outdoor space, (2) plant material selected, and (3) pathways and ease of accessibility and seating.

Here are a few ideas to get you started…

1. From indoors to outdoors create a transition or comfort zone between the indoor and outdoor space. 

Aging eyes  have difficulty adjusting from indoor light to out door sunlight. Providing shade at the entrance/exit in the form of an awning or patio will increase the transitional comfort.

Also …
Ensure the porch, entryway, and approach to the entryway are well lit
Locate the light switch near the entryway for easy access
Install handrails which are easily graspable on all outside steps
Outside steps and stairs should be in good condition and coated with a slip resistant surface. It’s helpful to use a contrasting color on steps for visibility
Driveway and walkways should be smooth but not slippery
Remove any junk and clutter that could be distracting or cause a fall

2. Creating the Garden avoid structures such as arbors or trellises which may create patterned shadows on the ground, causing what is referred to as visual cliffing.

Seniors may react to these changes in paving color or shadows on a path as if they were a change in depth, which can lead to stumbles, anxiety, and discomfort.
Also choose suitable plantings such as:
Trees, shrubs, flowers, and vines can be placed where they can be touched and smelled.
Select highly saturated colors such as oranges, reds and yellows–
these are much easier for seniors to see than blues, purples and greens
Plant your loved one’s favorite plant or shrub (roses, hydrangeas, daphne) to
stimulate fond memories
Kitchen herb gardens and other container gardens are wonderful for seniors.
Potted flowers or vegetables are at the right height for easy gardening access.
Herbs such as basil, parsley and chives are fragrant and the more they are
pinched or trimmed, the more vigorous they grow!

3. Moving around and sitting in the garden

The pathway circuit is vital. Creating interesting places to walk with shorter and
longer loops, destinations points (such as a water fountain or gazebo), and
changing views will encourage engagement and exercise. Pathways with edges or
railings will ensure safety for wheelchair users or individuals with impaired sight.

Living with other people in a community is a new experience for many residents

and it can be stressful. A garden can provide a place for quiet contemplation. On the other side of the spectrum, there should also be places to sit with others.These spaces create socialization, either with visitors or among the residents.

On the lighter side, if your loved one is planning to stay in place and prefers a simpler way to enjoy the outdoors without a full garden makeover, there are a number of quick and simple improvements that go a long way toward improving curb appeal, including:

Remove unnecessary clutter and debris from the outside space and walkways

Plant some colorful containers with favorite plants and flowers to brighten the

outdoor spaces, or add a fresh garden planting near the entry way.

Give the front door a fresh coat of paint for a more welcoming feel.

Update hardware such as front door handle, mailbox, or overhead light fixtures for a fresh, new look.

Power wash exterior surfaces for a fresh, clean look.

Clean roof and replace old gutters.

Repair any broken siding or trim. 

Large or small, outdoor improvements made with your senior’s specific needs in mind can make a big difference in their overall comfort and the curb appeal of their home.

Understandably however, the tasks (even the apparently simple ones) can be overwhelming if you’re trying to get them done on your own. If you feel a little daunted by the process and the amount of time it may take, you might consider tapping into SRANW professionals who specialize in senior home services for assistance. Rubbish Works of Portland is one such resource; with a simple phone call, they’ll come and pick up all those piles of unwanted stuff, including the trash, recyclables and donations, making one less thing to manage.

Betty Benson is a Rubbish Removal & Recycling Expert. As a Certified Master Recycler. Betty and her team at RubbishWorks of Portland provide Do-it-For-You removal solutions for debris and clutter. You can reach Betty at (503) 201-4505 or          CLICK HERE for additional information.