GARDENING: Good for you?

As we get older our relationship with gardens and gardening changes. Surveys suggest they
become much more important to us as a source of physical activity, but also in terms of our
identity and independence, and in ameliorating loneliness.

There is emerging evidence that gardening may also be important in falls prevention (helping to
maintain good gait and balance) and also in dementia prevention and cognitive decline. Not all is ‘rosy in the garden’ as we age, though; for example, lower back pain among gardeners is common, and gardens can become a psychological burden.

A few key statistics show how important gardening is – as a pastime, as an activity and as a  geographical, economic and social phenomenon. Around 87 per cent of UK households have  a garden and estimates suggest that private gardens cover an area about the size of  one – fifth  of Wales. One quarter of a typical city comprises  private gardens, half its green space  (Thompson and Head ,  no date ) . For example , around 23 per cent of Sheffield is private  gardens  (Gaston  et al 2005) .

The latest statistics (from April  2013  to March 2014) on how adults use  their  free time  (Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2015 b )  show that half of adults (49.5 per cent )  report gardening as a free – time activity, far less than watching  television  (90.4 per cent )  but far more than playing a musical instrument (10.4 per cent ). W e also visit gardens as part of visiting historic sites (40.2 per cent ) or taking  ‘ days out ’ (68.7 per cent ). But, even when we are watching  television , we are often watching or learning about gardens and gardening.

Now, a report from the National Gardens Scheme has looked at the benefits gardens and gardening can bring to the population’s health. The report includes a menu of recommendations to encourage the NHS, government departments, national bodies, local government, health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups to make more of the diverse health benefits of gardening.

To read the full report, visit the website and download a copy. Whilst it may primarily be of interest to strategic planners, it make interesting reading to the committed gardener as well as people planning for later life and looking at simple and effective ways to stay fit and healthy.