There might be a new prescription for patients showing early signs of dementia and heart disease: gardening.
A report, commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme, says gardens should be recommended by doctors for folks with these diagnoses.
Six months of gardening results in a slowdown of cognitive decline for the following 18 months, the report reveals. “Gardens appeal to the senses — particularly touch and smell — which are important for people with dementia,” the report says.
Gardening also gives people living with dementia access to natural light, which is important for the maintenance of circadian rhythms.
For older folks, regular gardening can reduce the risks of heart disease, cancer and obesity and can also improve balance, helping to prevent falls.
On top of that, recent research by the Universities of Westminster and Essex suggests that just 30 minutes a week spent tending a garden can boost feelings of self-esteem and mood by dissolving tension, depression, anger and confusion.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated.