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Local senior citizens say gardening has improved their mental health

Posted at 10:44 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 23:44:09-04

BRYAN, Texas — Gardening has its benefits for the health and well-being of people, and we are seeing that right here in the Brazos Valley.

Better Living for Texans and local seniors came together for a six-week course on how to grow and nourish a healthy community, along with helping their mental health.

Katie Zender is an extension agent with Better Living for Texans and led the six-week gardening course.

“We talked about starting seeds, choosing your vegetables, how to cook and store them safely, how to build raised beds, and everything under the sun when it comes to gardening,” says Katie Zender, Extension Agent, Better Living for Texans.

Mary Haynie is one of the local seniors who joined the six-week course. She recently lost both of her parents and says gardening just makes her feel good.

“Gardening, just being outdoors has really helped me so much,” says Mary Haynie, a member of the Brazos County Senior Citizen Association. “It’s helped my mental mind. When you have fun, you remember it. You retain it.”

Dr. Charlie Hall is a professor at Texas A&M in the Horticultural Sciences department and conducts research on the positive benefits of gardening.

He says memory retention is one of the benefits.

“It helps strengthen the tonality of their bodies and strengthens their core where they are more balance,” says Dr. Charlie Hall, Professor, Texas A&M, Horticultural Science. “It enhances their hand-eye coordination. Their memories are enhanced. They remember things better.”

Haynie says gardening provides her with more than just fruits and vegetables. It gives her purpose.

"It gives me a purpose each day to go out in the sunshine, go and check on my plants,” says Haynie. “It makes me feel happy."

Seniors in the six-week course said not only did they build friendships but also had something to look forward to each day.

Better Living for Texans helps low-income families and Zender taught the local seniors about planting seeds to pick their harvest.

“We work with different groups, individuals that are SNAP-eligible and work with them to provide nutrition education, gardening education, and physical activity education,” said Zender.

Georgia Seales is a local senior who says the program has been good for the soul and has benefitted her in more ways than one.

“I love it,” says Georgia Seales, member of the Brazos County Senior Citizen Association. “It’s a great stress releasor. You get closer to God, and you just can’t imagine the benefits you reap from it.”

Dr. Hall says gardening mimics life skills we use every day.

“If you’re planting a seed, it’s emulating holding a fork,” says Dr. Hall. “It helps with other life skills, all the things you would do within gardening. There’s just something about getting your hands dirty.”

Lisa McDonald agrees with Dr. Hall. She enjoys the hands-on experience.

“It’s wonderful to get outside, dig in the dirt and listen to the birds singing and not think about the problems of life,” says Lisa McDonald, a member of the Brazos County Senior Citizen Association.

Katie is looking forward to holding another class at the Brazos County Senior Citizens Association to continue to help the community.