With Spring in the air, the evenings getting longer and summer just around the corner, this time of year offers many ageing adults the opportunity to get out and about, and get some fresh air, even if it is just to work in the garden.

The benefits of activity such as gardening can’t be stressed enough as light exercise can help prevent serious physical and emotional problems, such as depression, chronic conditions, and memory decline. 
However, there are some age-related conditions that should be considered to keep older people safe in the garden.  As we age issues surrounding vision, mobility and balance become more problematic and, in some cases can lead to the restriction of activities.

Steven Tubbritt, General Manager of Home Instead Waterford advises that obstacles and hazards can be mitigated with a little preparatory work in the garden to help make the garden a safe and rewarding space.

“It’s a real positive if your older family member is thinking about taking advantage of the milder weather and longer days to spend time in the garden. However, there are some physical, mental and age-related conditions that can make the activity a little more precarious for an ageing adult.  That’s why it’s important to lay the groundwork to lessen these risks.

“In the garden there can be plenty of unseen obstacles.  Uneven ground, wet leaves or grassy surfaces can be hazardous.  If an older relative is spending time in the garden, please try to ensure that the area is free of obstacles that could lead to a fall.

“Also be mindful of stretching and straining.  Bending for weeding or tending garden beds can lead to back strain, so raised garden beds are a great addition to any garden as they cut out the need to bend or stretch for anyone who has mobility issues.”

Steven also advises that any complicated or heavy work involving tree pruning or hedge-cutting should be carried out by a family member or professional service provider.

Some other advice to keep ageing adults safe in the garden include:

  • During bright days, sunglasses should always be worn outside but make sure they are taken off before going inside to prevent an accident. Pausing inside for a few minutes is a good idea to help eyes adjust from the bright sunlight.
  • Check that wheelchairs, walkers and other equipment does not pose a trip hazard.
  • Older people may not always be able to tell when they are thirsty so encourage them to drink water regularly, unless their doctor has advised them to limit the amount of fluid they drink.  It is a good idea for an older person to have a water bottle with them in the garden to avoid becoming dehydrated.
If you are planning a holiday with a grandparent or older relative, Home Instead advises some issues to determine prior to any plans being made:
  • Discussion:  have a discussion about what type of holiday your older relative would enjoy; cultural, adventure, a city break.  A two week adventure park holiday might not be the relaxing holiday your older relative had in mind.
  • Preparation:  before you travel, ensure you have a written summary of any medical conditions or medications that your travelling companion has / takes.  Also ensure you are aware of the proximity of hospitals, G.P.’s and pharmacies in the area.
  • Travel insurance / healthcare in EU / EEA countries: As an Irish resident you are entitled to get healthcare through the public system in countries of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay there.  It is worthwhile applying for a European Health Insurance Card – one card is required for each individual or family member.
  • Try to keep set schedules:  Change of routine and climate can contribute to dehydration and constipation.  Try not to alter the daily pattern too much, for example eating much later in the evening than usual can lead to stress, sleeping and digestion difficulties.
  • Budget:  Many older people are on fixed incomes, so keep spend on food, travel and gifts to a minimum.  Agree a realistic budget and stick to it.
  • Keep cool:  Sunscreen should always be worn by an older person, even if they only go outside for a short time, as their skin is much thinner and can burn easily. A wide-brimmed hat that shades the face and covers the head is advisable if going outdoors in the heat.
Home Instead provides services to ageing adults in their own homes and is approved by the HSE. Its CAREGivers help clients maintain their independence by assisting them with activities of daily living such as personal care, meal preparation, laundry, shopping, and light housekeeping.

To find out more about Home Instead Waterford call 051 333966 or 058 75298 or visit www.homeinstead.ie