Some of my most cherished memories are of my grandparents working in their gardens. Even when I was a child, I was impressed by their energy and commitment. I’ll grant you that they had lived through tough times of pandemic, financial depressions and wars, so they were used to gardening of necessity. But even when current events had settled down, they kept at it. I believe that gardening kept them young in mind, even if they all didn’t live into their 90s. Even so, they remained keenly interested in their gardens and continued working them until the end.
They would’ve laughed at the notion of working out in a gym. Gardening was their exercise. It kept them moving with a purpose – putting healthy food on the table. Working outdoors built flexibility, strength, stamina and cardiopulmonary capacity. They weren’t pounding the pavement or pumping iron, either. Theirs was what you might call “low-impact” exercise.
Besides working their muscles, they were also soaking up sunshine. Yes, the men-folk wore their hats, grandmothers wore their bonnets, and all wore long-sleeved shirts, but they were getting enough exposure to produce Vitamin D, build immunity and strong bones. None suffered from osteoporosis.
I remember well the strength in my grandparents hands – the way they’d grab my arm to stop me from hurting myself or hold my hand to help me keep up. The grandfathers taught me to firmly shake the hands of others, look them in the eye and say, “Pleased to meet you, Sir.” I reckon their strong hands came from hours of shoveling, raking, hoeing and pulling, shelling peas and beans.
“High self-esteem” was not something they thought much of for “pride goeth before a fall”, but I’m sure they were well-satisfied with their handiwork. What better way to gain a sense of accomplishment than working and seeing the garden grow a cornucopia of produce? How beautiful were those rows and rows of canned vegetables in glass jars.
My grandparents had many concerns, but gardening certainly relieved a lot of stress. After a few hours among the vegetables and flowers, they had worked out a lot of their frustrations and replaced them with the sense of jobs well-done. Not only that, the exercise helped them sleep better.
Getting their hands dirty in the well-manured garden was the healthy thing to do. As my Uncle Paul (a Dutchman) used to say, “Dat is goed spul!” Translation: “That’s good stuff.” Scientists have even discovered beneficial bacteria in the soil, one of which is Mycobacterian vaccae. Maybe he knew about that intuitively.
But strong muscles and bones, dexterity, improved mental health and well-being were not the only benefits of gardening for those senior citizens. There was also the benefit of saving money, which they thought so much about. They saved string! In these uncertain times, all of these benefits might come in real handy.
Return to GoGardenNow.com.