Implementing universal design elements into your therapeutic garden helps to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy the calming effect, creative outlet and sense of accomplishment that gardening offers.
The term universal design, first used in 1963 by an architect, refers to design elements that are both aesthetically pleasing and usable by people of varying physical abilities.
Gently removing unintended barriers to gardening can encourage older adults to stay active, improving both their physical health as well as their mental acuity. Scan your garden for these opportunities to improve accessibility for all, starting this month while the season is still early – not too hot, nor too humid.
Three changes you can make this month to make your therapeutic garden more accessible:
- Install raised flower beds. Consider offering raised beds of varying heights. Those 24” tall are ideal for people who are seated, whether it be in a wheelchair or on a decorative chair placed next to your raised bed. Raised flower beds that stand at 30” tall are best for those older adults who prefer to stand, but have trouble bending.
- Add vertical gardening elements. Maximize your space and the accessibility of your garden by growing upward. Include trellises with climbing plants (such as morning glory) in your garden as an alternative to, or in addition to, raised flower beds. Or, affix containers to a wall or another supportive structure. One particularly creative idea we have seen recently is repurposing old gutters by securely fastening them to a wall to create rows of modified window boxes ideal for planting herbs.
- Replace traditional gardening tools with adaptive tools. Many hardware stores carry ergonomic garden tools that take the discomfort out of gardening, especially for older adults with arthritic joints.
Each of these three changes is simple, requiring only a shift in perspective when preparing for the upcoming season. Gardening is the #1 leisure activity for older adults. With a move to universal design, your therapeutic garden will remain accessible for all, during every stage of life.