Events & News

Spring at Youville: Reviving Our Herb Gardens


Gardening is a wonderful way to embrace the return of spring; it is also an ideal outdoor activity for seniors. A few minutes spent in a natural setting, tending to a small plot of land, can be just the thing to revive our spirits and make us feel healthier all around. Exposure to the sun provides us with the Vitamin D we need to keep our skin healthy and our bones strong. In addition to providing that satisfying connection with nature, gardening is great exercise. As a sustained, low-impact exercise, gardening promotes heart health without being too strenuous. The light twisting and bending associated with gardening can improve balance, strength, and flexibility.

With the return of warm weather and lengthening days, we look forward to reviving our herb gardens at Youville House and Youville Place and planting an array of fresh herbs to be harvested and enjoyed throughout the growing season. Residents are invited to participate in all stages of gardening throughout the season, from planting and watering to harvesting and enjoying.

One study in the Netherlands showed that gardening may be a more effective stress reducer than other hobbies. The study divided people into two groups: gardeners and readers. After completing a stressful activity, the readers were asked to relax with a book for half an hour, while the other group took solace in tending their gardens. The gardeners reported a lower level of stress after the activity and the researchers found lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their systems.

Gardening may also have benefits on brain health. Two studies tracked people in their 60s and 70s for a period of 16 years and found that the people who gardened had less risk of developing dementia. Separate studies have found that people with depression experience relief through gardening.

One of the most satisfying aspects of cultivating herbs and vegetables is the enjoyment of the final product. These benefits are not confined to the physical activity of gardening. The benefits continue even as we enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor, in the form of valuable nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and other health-promoting chemical compounds. Since we will be focusing on cultivating herbs at Youville, here is a list of some of the health benefits associated with commonly found home grown herbs.

  • Peppermint – A cup of peppermint tea can aid with digestion. When applied to the skin it can help relieve itching and sore muscles.
  • Lemon Balm – Lemon balm has been used since the middle ages to calm nerves and dispel anxiety. It may also help improve mood and memory.
  • Rosemary – A member of the mint family, rosemary, is not just delicious in food, but also rich in healthy antioxidants. Research has shown that rosemary can also protect against age-related cognitive decline and memory loss.
  • Valerian – Valerian is most commonly used as a sleep aid. It is also useful for calming stress and anxiety.
  • Sage – Another member of the mint family, sage is thought to play a role in improving memory, cognition, and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Another study has suggested that essential oils derived from sage may also improve memory in younger adults.

As younger generations become interested in locally grown food, gardening is becoming as much a new fad as a healthy American tradition. Environmentally conscious young adults are finding that community gardens provide a healthy natural refuge from city life and a delicious and healthy alternative to processed foods shipped in from afar. For older generations who grew up with gardens, the revival of urban gardens and locally grown food recalls the horticultural enthusiasm that began with the Victory Gardens of the 1940s.

This spring, we look forward to an array of outdoors activities in our herb gardens as well as the outside community. Whether as a spectator, a consumer of fresh food, or an active gardener, participating in the food-growing process is a wonderful springtime activity and a great way to spend time outdoors.

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