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Gardening with mobility problems in later life


Enjoy gardening even with mobility difficulties 



Gardening isn’t easy for people with conditions such as arthritis, blindness, back injuries and other mobility problems. But nowadays there are lots of solutions and new ideas to help gardeners with mobility difficulties. 


BUPA has been looking at the challenges and has come up with a number of solutions. With 17,000 care home residents, many of whom have some mobility impairment, BUPA recognises the need to provide facilities to help people enjoy gardening and has linked up with the national horticultural charity, Thrive, to create sensory gardens in over 60 of its care homes. Out of this partnership has come  some useful advice for anyone who wants to get back into gardening.

It’s wise to start small. Recognise your needs and abilities. Focus on a small area of the garden and slowly increase range and time you want to devote to it when you feel ready. 


BUPA’s tips on adapting your garden


1.  Elevated and raised beds


         Elevated beds have shallow planting areas that are raised off the ground on legs. If you are gardening from a wheelchair or prefer to sit while weeding, these could be the best way to plant.

         Raised beds or containers also minimise bending and stooping. 

         Use small light containers, such as plastic troughs or pots so they can easily be moved around the garden. 

         Truck tyres, wheelbarrows, wine casks, even bathtubs can be used as raised planting beds.

         Put raised beds or planters on the balcony if you don’t have a garden.

         These beds are best suited to annual flowers, fruits and vegetables, because permanent plantings are more vulnerable to frost.  



2  Access to your garden


         If you want a grass area, remember that lawns can have uneven surfaces.  Paving stones that incorporate holes for the grass to be seeded through will provide a more stable and level surface.

         Install handrails or handgrips where possible or make sure permanent surfaces are non-slip, made of a porous material and allow water drainage.

         Walkways that have been designed for wheelchair access should be at least 3 feet wide and ramps should be edged to prevent the chair rolling off the side and should have a slope of no more than 8%.

         Make sure any steps are clearly highlighted with white or yellow paint to help prevent falls.


3  Choosing plants


         Make your life easy – perennial plants that re-grow each year are easier to manage than annuals that need replanting.

         Consider the plant’s height, growth rate and the amount of attention it will need, including watering and spraying.

         If you have limited reach, choose plants or vegetables that do not grow higher than 2 feet.                                                             


4. Tools


         When gardening use foam pads to reduce strain on the knees.

         There are lots of adapted tools available at garden centres, including short and long reach trowels, forks, spades and weeders.        

         Extension handles on pruning shears can help you to avoid twisting and straining. 


For information about the health benefits of gardening, advice on getting fit for gardening and further tips on gardening safely, log on to BUPA’s website                                                                           

For information and expert advice on easier and accessible gardening for older people and those with restricted mobility visit Thrive’s website  

BUPA has teamed up with the national horticultural charity Thrive to create 60 sensory gardens across the UK for residents, relatives and the local community to enjoy. To find your nearest BUPA sensory garden visit


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