Want more zest for life? Consider gardening

Mar 17, 2011
Researchers at Texas A&M and Texas State found that gardening contributes to increased life satisfaction in older adults. Credit: Photo courtesy of Tina Marie (Waliczek) Cade

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 when compared with nongardeners".

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.

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.

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 while also increasing . "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.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

More information: The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site: horttech.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/4/705

Provided by American Society for Horticultural Science

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Another reason to get your hands dirty

Dec 29, 2008

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week in order to maintain and improve optimal ...

Predicting the quality of life for older adults

May 29, 2007

As a growing number of baby boomers retire, our society will have more older adults than ever before, so it is crucial to determine what predicts quality of life in older age. A joint study from the University of Alberta ...

Aging well with a hoe, spade

Jan 26, 2011

People older than 62 who have an allotment garden are significantly more healthy than people without an allotment. In general, people of all ages with an allotment get more physical exercise. This was confirmed ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

pauljpease
not rated yet Mar 17, 2011
So they're concluding that gardening makes you happier. Of course, they're study is also consistent with the converse conclusion, that if you're happier, you're more likely to garden.

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.