Member’s Article Review


Review by Toni Salter, DTA member and President of Cultivate, the Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW Inc.

Who’d have thought that watering your plants could help delay the onset of dementia!  A Japanese research study has shown that out of 5 different gardening tasks, watering your plants is the best thing that you can do.

Dementia prevention for the elderly is an urgent global problem to be solved. Gardening activities include various elements such as exercise, communication and use of cognitive function. The effects of gardening are experientially recognized as one of the activities for the elderly. This study validates these effects by investigating brain activities during gardening. The objective of this study was to find gardening activities which seem to stimulate moderately the prefrontal area of the elderly and to be effective for dementia prevention and suppression of its progression.

Five gardening tasks (seeding, thinning, planting, weeding and watering) were assigned to the healthy adults 59 years or younger and the healthy elderly 60 years or older and the change in cerebral blood flow at the prefrontal area was measured by means of NIRS (Near Infrared Spectroscopy). The results showed that all of the five tasks activated the prefrontal area of both groups. In particular, watering task proved to evoke large activation for the elderly. Today, the brain plasticity is getting clear. The findings indicate that continuous gardening may have a possibility of contributing to dementia prevention physiologically.

The study confirmed that best results were achieved when activities were carried out daily. This means you should choose suitable plants for your recreation programs. Annual plants are perfect. Most of our vegetables are annual plants, benefiting from daily care. You can include things like tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and okra. Edible plants can also help with cross cultural inclusion, conversation and reminiscence. Flowering annuals are another a good choice. Marigold, petunias, salvias and sunflowers produce bright vibrant and joyful flowers.

Potted plants often need more watering and are more accessible if located at waist height on a table or bench. Use smaller watering cans as these are lighter and easier to use for many. With Spring in the air, it’s time to get our daily dose of gardening.

Toyoda, M; Yokota, Y; Sugihara, S; Kaneko, M; Okano, H; Kenmochi, T; THE EFFECTS OF GARDENING ACTIVITIES ON PREFRONTAL AREA MEASURED WITH NIRS, University of Hyogo, Awaji, Japan. 2014

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