Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55b6f6c457-s8qdg Total loading time: 0.358 Render date: 2021-09-24T16:18:22.360Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2014

School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.
School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.
School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.
Address for correspondence: Theresa Scott, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia. E-mail:


Research shows that contact with nature plays a vital role in our psychological wellbeing. Domestic gardening is common among older adults who spend more leisure hours gardening than any other age group. Despite this, few studies have systematically explored the significance of domestic gardens in relation to older adults' health and wellbeing. This study examined the perceived therapeutic benefits of gardening, and the effect of ageing in relation to older gardeners' continued participation in gardening, using quantitative and qualitative data from a survey of Australian older adult gardeners (N=331). The quantitative data, which included frequencies, were analysed using the PASW Statistics 18.0 package. The qualitative data, which included participants' responses to open questions, were analysed by deriving themes via Leximancer, an innovative text analytics software that uses word association information to elicit concepts, extracting the most important and grouping these according to themes. In relation to the reasons for gardening, several themes were identified including valuing the aesthetics of gardens, connecting with nature, achievement, and physical and mental activity. The benefits of gardening, and the variety of ways that respondents had adapted or modified their gardening activities in order to continue, are also reported. Gardening was more than a casual leisure pursuit for these participants, who saw it as critical to their physical and psychological wellbeing.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ashton-Shaeffer, C. and Constant, A. 2006. Why do older adults garden? Activities, Adaptation and Aging, 30, 2, 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012. Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census: Who Are Australia's Older People? 2071.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.Google Scholar
Baltes, M. M. and Lang., F. R. 1997. Everyday functioning and successful aging: the impact of resources. Psychology and Aging, 12, 3, 433–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baltes, M. M., Maas, I., Wilms, H. U., Borchelt, M. F. and Little, T. 1999. Everyday competence in old and very old age: theoretical considerations and empirical findings. In Baltes, P. B. and Mayer, K. U. (eds), The Berlin Aging Study: Aging from 70 to 100. Cambridge University Press, New York, 384402.Google Scholar
Baltes, P. B. 1987. Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: on the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 5, 611–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baltes, P. B. and Baltes, M. M. 1990. Psychological perspectives on successful aging: the model of selective optimization with compensation. In Baltes, P. B. and Baltes, M. M. (eds), Successful Aging: Perspectives from the Behavioral Sciences. Cambridge University Press, New York, 134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berman, M., Jonides, J. and Kaplan, S. 2008. The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19, 12, 1207–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bhatti, M. 2006. ‘When I'm in the garden I can create my own paradise’: Homes and gardens in later life. Sociological Review, 54, 2, 318341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bhatti, M., Church, A., Claremont, A. and Stenner, P. 2009. ‘I love being in the garden’: enchanting encounters in everyday life. Social & Cultural Geography, 10, 1, 6176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bijnen, F. C. H., Feskens, E. J. M., Caspersen, C. J., Saris, W. H. M., Mosterd, W. L. and Kromhout, D. 1998. Physical activity and 10-year mortality from cardiovascular diseases and all causes. American Medical Association, 158, 14, 1499–505.Google ScholarPubMed
Bird, S., Radermacher, H., Feldman, S., Sims, J., Kurowski, W., Browning, C. and Thomas, S. 2009. Factors influencing the physical activity levels of older people from culturally-diverse communities: an Australian experience. Ageing & Society, 29, 8, 1275–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Čapek, K. [1929] 1939. The Gardener's Year. Translators M. and R. Weatherall, Allen Unwin, London.Google Scholar
Chaudhury, M. and Shelton, N. 2010. Physical activity among 60–69-year-olds in England: knowledge, perception, behaviour and risk factors. Ageing & Society, 30, 8, 1343–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cimprich, B. and Ronnis, D. 2003. An environmental intervention to restore the attention in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer. Cancer Nursing, 26, 4, 284–92.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Clayton, S. 2007. Domesticated nature: motivations for gardening and perceptions of environmental impact. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27, 3, 215–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fiatarone, M. A., O'Neill, E. F., Ryan, N. D., Clements, K. M., Solares, G. R., Nelson, M. E., Roberts, S. B., Kehayias, J. J., Lipsitz, L. A. and Evans, W. J. 1994. Exercise training and nutritional supplementation for physical frailty in very elderly people. New England Journal of Medicine, 330, 25, 1769–75.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fiske, A., Wetherell, J. L. and Gatz, M. 2009. Depression in older adults. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 5, 363–89.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Freeman, C., Dickinson, K. J. M., Porter, S. and van Heezik, Y. 2012. ‘My garden is an expression of me’: exploring householders’ relationships with their gardens. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32, 2, 135–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Freund, A. M. and Baltes, P. B. 1998. Selection, optimization, and compensation as strategies of life management: correlations with subjective indicators of successful aging. Psychology and Aging, 13, 4, 531–43.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Garden Clubs of Australia 2012. The “Who, What, & How”. Available online at [Accessed December 2013].Google Scholar
Gross, H. and Lane, N. 2007. Landscapes of the lifespan: exploring accounts of own gardens and gardening. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27, 3, 225–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hawkins, J., Thirlaway, K. J., Backx, K. and Clayton, D. A. 2011. Allotment gardening and other leisure activities for stress reduction and healthy aging. Hort Technology, 21, 5, 577–85.Google Scholar
Hill, R. 2005. Positive Aging. W. W. Norton & Co., New York.Google Scholar
Hoffman, C., Rice, D. and Sung, H. 1996. Persons with chronic conditions, their prevalence and costs. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 276, 18, 1473–9.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Holbrook, A. 2008. The Green We Need: An Investigation of the Benefits of Green Life and Green Spaces for Urban Dwellers’ Physical, Mental and Social Health. Nursery and Garden Industry Australia, Epping, Australia.Google Scholar
Kahana, E., Lawrence, R. H., Kahana, B., Kercher, K., Wisniewski, A., Stoller, E., Tobin, J. and Stange, K. 2002. Long-term impact of preventive proactivity on quality of life of the old-old. Psychosomatic Medicine, 64, 3, 382–94.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kaplan, R. 1992. The psychological benefits of nearby nature. In Relf, D. (ed.), The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-being and Social Development. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 134–42.Google Scholar
Kaplan, R. 2001. The nature of the view from home: psychological benefits. Environment and Behaviour, 33, 4, 507–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaplan, R. and Kaplan, S. 1989. The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
Kelly, J. R. 1996. Leisure. Third edition, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.Google Scholar
Kohlleppel, T., Bradley, J. C. and Jacob, S. 2002. A walk through the garden: can a visit to a botanic garden reduce stress? Hort Technology, 12, 3, 489–92.Google Scholar
Kuo, G. and Faber Taylor, A. 2004. A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94, 9, 1580–86.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lampinen, P., Heikkinen, R. L., Kauppinen, M. and Heikkinen, E. 2006. Activity as a predictor of mental well-being among older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 10, 5, 454–66.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lawton, M. P. 1987. Activities and leisure. In Lawton, M. P. and Maddox, G. (eds), Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics. Volume 5, Springer, New York, 127–64.Google Scholar
Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P. and St Leger, L. 2006. Healthy nature, healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International, 21, 1, 4554.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Mathers, C., Vos, T. and Stevenson, C. 1999. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.Google Scholar
Neuman, W. L. 2006. Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Sixth edition, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.Google Scholar
Pachana, N. A., Kidd, J. L. and Alpass, F. M. 2000. Impact of physical disability on pursuit of gardening activities in mid-aged women. Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 6, 2, 7885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Park, S., Shoemaker, C. A. and Haub, M. D. 2009. Physical and psychological health conditions of older adults classified as gardeners or non gardeners. HortScience, 44, 1, 206–10.Google Scholar
Patterson, I. and Chang, M. 1999. Participation in physical activities by older Australians: a review of the social psychological benefits and constraints. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 18, 4, 179–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pentz, T. and Strauss, M. C. 1998. Children and youth and horticultural therapy practice. In Simson, S. P. and Strauss, M. C. (eds), Horticulture as Therapy: Principles and Practice. The Food Products Press, New York, 199230.Google Scholar
Power, E. 2005. Human–nature relations in suburban gardens. Australian Geographer, 36, 1, 3953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quandt, S. A., Arcury, T. A., Bell, R. A., McDonald, J. and Vitolins, M. Z. 2001. The social meaning of food sharing among older rural adults. Journal of Aging Studies, 15, 2, 145–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Relf, P. D. and Lohr, V. I. 2003. Human issues in horticulture. HortScience, 38, 5, 984–93.Google Scholar
Rice, J. S., Remy, L. L. and Whittlesey, L. A. 1998. Substance abuse, offender rehabilitation, and horticultural therapy practice. In Simson, S. P. and Strauss, M. C. (eds), Horticulture as Therapy: Principles and Practice. The Food Products Press, New York, 257–84.Google Scholar
Richards, H. J. and Kafami, D. M. 1999. Impact of horticultural therapy on vulnerability and resistance to substance abuse among incarcerated offenders. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 29, 3/4, 183–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roberts, C. K. and Barnard, R. J. 2005. Effects of exercise and diet on chronic disease. Journal of Applied Physiology, 98, 1, 330.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rowe, J. W. and Kahn, R. L. 1987. Human aging: usual and successful. Science, 237, 4811, 143–9.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rowe, J. W. and Kahn, R. L. 1998. Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 4, 433–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, A. 2000. Leximancer: The Document Mapping System. Key Centre for Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.Google Scholar
Smith, A. E. and Humphreys, M. S. 2006. Evaluation of unsupervised semantic mapping of natural language with Leximancer concept mapping. Behavior Research Methods, 38, 2, 262–79.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sommerfeld, A. J., McFarland, A. L., Waliczek, T. M. and Zajicek, J. M. 2010. Growing minds: evaluating the relationship between gardening and fruit and vegetable consumption in older adults. Hort Technology, 20, 4, 711–7.Google Scholar
Strawbridge, W. J., Deleger, S., Roberts, R. E. and Kaplan, G. A. 2002. Physical activity reduces the risk of subsequent depression for older adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 156, 4, 328–34.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Turner, T. 2005. Garden History, Philosophy and Design, 2000 BC–2000 AD. Spon Press, New York.Google Scholar
Ulrich, R. S. 1984. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 4647, 420–1.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ulrich, R. S. 1993. Biophilia, biophobia, and natural landscapes. In Kellert, S. R. and Wilson, E. O. (eds), The Biophilia Hypothesis. Island Press, Washington DC, 73137.Google Scholar
Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A. and Zelson, M. 1991. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11, 3, 201–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
United Nations 2013. World Population Ageing: 1950–2050. Available online at [accessed January 2013].Google Scholar
Wannamethee, S., Shaper, A. and Walker, M. 2000. Physical activity and mortality in older men with diagnosed coronary heart disease. Circulation, 102, 12, 1358–63.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wiles, J. L., Leibing, A., Guberman, N., Reeve, J. and Allen, R. E. S. 2011. The meaning of ‘ageing in place’ to older people. The Gerontologist, 52, 3, 357–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *