If Sacramento residents take up gardening, either in their yard, at a school community garden, or at an urban garden open to the public, are older gardeners healthier if they garden and then eat their own organic vegetables and fruits? New studies from the American Society for Horticultural Science suggest the food plus the exercise helps to keep them healthier. According to a March 17, 20100 article in the horticultural journal, HortTechnology, “Gardening linked to increased vegetable consumption in older adults,” the new study of older adults has revealed some interesting nutritional benefits to gardening.
UC Davis in the Sacramento and Davis regional areas also has gardening space where you can grow your own vegetables, nuts, or fruit. See the site, Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis | Facebook. Also in Sacramento has the Slow Food Sacramento urban gardens where you can grow your own produce. Check out the site, Slow Food Sacramento. Also see, Sustainable Urban Gardens, creating sustainability through urban gardens.
Making affordable, locally and regionally-grown organic food available to all, rich, middle-income and poor, must become a top priority for city and county governments across the nation. Making the transition to organic food and farming stimulates the local economy, improves public health, sequesters enormous amount of climate destabilizing greenhouse gases, and protects the environment, according to the Sustainable Urban Gardens website.
As global warming intensifies, the Sustainable Urban Gardens website notes, “scientists warn that a continuation of current ‘business as usual’ practices will lead to a catastrophic 8.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature rise by 2100. Slow Food’s website reports, ‘only hope is to make energy-efficient and climate-stabilizing organic food and farming the norm rather than just the green alternative.’ Watch this video — Capture carbon in soil with organic farming.
Researchers compared fruit and vegetable consumption of older gardeners and non-gardeners, and investigated differences in fruit and vegetable consumption of long-term gardeners compared with newer gardeners. The results suggested that offering gardening ‘intervention’ programs for older adults could be an effective way to improve vegetable and fruit consumption in the population.
If you live in Sacramento or Davis, you can rent a space to grow your own vegetables or even pick the nut and fruit trees at UC Davis. Or you can rent space at one of the urban community gardens. Also check out the March 17, 2011 news release, “Want more zest for life? Consider gardening!” Read the primary source, the complete study and abstract which are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site.
New research makes a strong case for the benefits of gardening for older adults, according to the news release. The study of adults age 65 and older found that gardeners scored higher on a life satisfaction survey than respondents that did not participate in gardening. Older gardeners reported being more optimistic and having higher energy levels than their non-gardening counterparts, and rated their physical health as better — all factors that add up to an increased quality of life.
Does gardening contribute to quality of life and increased wellness for older adults? Researchers from the Texas A&M and Texas State Universities asked these questions in a survey of people aged 50 and older. The survey revealed some compelling reasons for older adults to get themselves out in the garden.
Aime Sommerfeld, Jayne Zajicek, and Tina Waliczek designed a questionnaire to investigate older adult gardeners’ and nongardeners’ perceptions of personal life satisfaction and levels of physical activity. According to Sommerfeld, lead author of the study published in HortTechnology: “The primary focus of the study was to determine if gardening had a positive impact on perceptions of quality of life and levels of physical activity of older adults when compared with nongardeners,” according to the March 17, 2011 news release.
A 2007 Administration on Aging report titled A Profile of Older Americans noted that one in every eight Americans is considered an “older adult” (65+ years). The older adult population is at greater risk for disease as a result of decreased levels of exercise and poor dietary and/or lifestyle choices.
A combination of moderate physical activity and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables has been reported to dramatically reduce an adult’s risk for many chronic diseases. “Gardening is one of the most popular home-based leisure activities in the United States and has been reported as the second most common leisure activity, after walking, of adults older than age 65 years”, the researchers noted, according to that news release.
To find out more about the health and attitudes of older adult who garden, Sommerfeld and colleagues designed a survey based on the Life Satisfaction Inventory A (LSIA), a tool that measures five components of quality of life: ”zest for life,” ”resolution and fortitude,” ”congruence between desired and achieved goals,” ”physical, psychological, and social self-concept,” and ”optimism.”
Additional multiple choice questions were asked to determine respondents’ level of physical activity, perceptions of overall health and well-being, as well as to gather demographic information. The survey was posted on a university homepage for one month. Responses were gathered from 298 participants who differentiated themselves as gardeners or nongardeners by responding positively or negatively to the simple question ”do you garden?”
The researchers found significant differences in overall life satisfaction scores, with gardeners receiving higher mean scores (indicating more positive results) on the LSIA. Sommerfeld, Zajicek, and Waliczek explained: “More than 84% of gardeners agreed with the statement, ”I have made plans for things I’ll be doing a month or a year from now” compared with only 68% of nongardeners.” Significant differences between gardeners and nongardeners were also noted in the ”energy level” statement, ”I feel old and somewhat tired”. Gardeners disagreed with the statement at a rate of 70.9%, whereas 57.3% of nongardeners disagreed with the statement, according to the study.
Older adults who garden also reported a higher level of daily physical activity compared to nongardening respondents. Over three times as many nongardeners (14.71%) considered themselves to be “quite inactive.”, while only 4.43% of gardener said the same. “Almost twice as many gardeners (38%) considered themselves to be “very active” compared with only 19.6% of nongardeners”, noted the study.
More than 75% of gardeners who participated in the survey rated their health as either ”very good” or ”excellent’. Gardeners also reported eating more fruit and vegetables because of their exposure to gardening. “These factors, in conjunction with higher physical activity, result in healthier lifestyles and increased quality of life”, the researchers wrote.
The study presents strong evidence that gardening can be an effective way for older adults to increase life satisfaction while also increasing physical activity. “In a time when older adults are living longer and enjoying more free time, gardening offers the opportunity to fulfill needs created by changing lifestyles. Gardening provides participants with opportunities to reconnect with themselves through nature and a healthy activity to enhance their quality of life”, Sommerfeld concluded.
Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. So basically, if you’re an older adult, gardening and eating what you plant and harvest may lead to better health, according to the latest studies. But if you garden, be careful of the gardening-related injuries from tools, mowers, and harvesting. With care, good eats and some exercise might keep you in better health, say the latest studies. Another hobby you might consider is photographing healthy food outdoors.