How to Make Gardening and Yardwork Accessible to Everyone
By Lincoln Williams
Gardening is a favorite activity of centenarians from the blue zones and can be a relaxing, rewarding pastime for people of all ages, but especially for people whose other activities are limited by age or disability. Although they may have some limitations, people with physical challenges don’t have to be left out of the enjoyment. Some careful planning can make the pleasure of gardening accessible to everyone.Some careful planning can make the pleasure of gardening accessible to everyone. Click To Tweet
The first steps are to consider the abilities of the people who will be participating and then consider what can be done to make their gardening safe and accessible. People who have physical limitations may not be able to get around in the narrow rows of a typical garden, and they may not be able to perform the bending and stooping gardening often requires.
Here are a few garden planning tips to consider:
Room to roam
Make sure there’s plenty of room to roam. This may mean creating extra wide rows in the garden so people who use wheelchairs or walk with walkers can get around. Concrete paths are the best, but regardless of the surface you choose, make sure it stays dry and slip-proof. If any steps are necessary, a handrail should be a requirement.
Raise it up
Raised garden beds are ideal for avoiding bending and stooping by people with limited movement. Beds should be within easy reach of gardeners who are either standing or sitting, generally no more than three feet wide.
Container gardening is another great option for people with disabilities. Container plants can be moved and placed easily and don’t require the stooping and digging of ground gardening.
Gardens should have irrigation systems to avoid the need for carrying heavy water containers. Remember: even something as narrow as a garden hose can be an obstacle for people with limited motion or who use wheelchairs.
Paths and wayfinding
Straight paths that are clear of overhanging vegetation are helpful for visually impaired people. Plants grouped by color can also help them. Sounds from windchimes, pinwheels, water features, and other devices can also help people stay oriented.
Tools, attire & equipment
Stiff joints and arthritis are common among older gardeners. If they must kneel, make sure foam pads and/or knee pads are available. Also, make sure there are ample solid structures close by to help them get up and down.
Proper attire is a must—hats or caps will protect heads and faces from the sun. Even in summer, lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants are advisable to protect from sunburn and insects. Work gloves should always be available and carpenter aprons are great for keeping tools handy.
Keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy as well as insect spray or insect repelling candles to repel mosquitoes.
Chairs and benches provide places to rest between chores and offer areas to downshift and enjoy the peace of a garden.
Tools with extendable handles, easy grips, and water wands can make a world of difference for people with limitations.
Gardening & longevity
In all blue zones, people continue to garden even into their 90s and 100s. Gardening is the epitome of a blue zones activity because it’s sort of a nudge: You plant the seeds and you’re going to be nudged in the next three to four months to water it, weed it, harvest it. And when you’re done, you’re going to eat an organic vegetable, which you presumably like because you planted it.
Gardening offers an array of benefits for people whose activities are limited. It’s a good form of exercise that’s not overly strenuous, a way for people to remain active, and offers an opportunity to socialize. Gardening also has the benefits of fresh air and sunshine—all that vitamin D is good for you.
Lincoln Williams is a landscaping hobbyist who started planting gardens with his grandfather when he was little. He has a propensity for growing vegetables and loves to cook with them. He resides in Tennessee with his family.