How gardening keeps 94-year-old green thumb Eric active

Eric Clinch, 94, shares his gardening tips for seniors

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Swimming three times a day, tummy crunches and getting out in the garden is this nonegenarian's secret to ageing well.

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HE may be 94, but that doesn't retired boot maker and avid gardener, Eric Clinch, from wielding his pruning shears and banishing weeds on a weekly basis.

Green-thumbed Eric is a familiar sight in the communal garden at Aveo's Freedom Care Commmunity Tanah Merah in the Logan suburb of Slacks Creek in Queensland, where he is a resident.

Eric, who owned a boot making shop in the NSW Blue Mountains and was also a firefighter, moved to the aged care community in 2018.

"I continue my love for this hobby by tidying up the communal gardening area, watering the plants and getting cuttings, as well as helping residents maintain their own gardens on the verandas," said Eric.

"Aside from being a great source of exercise for me, it's also afforded me the opportunity to socialise with other residents. Whether they want some cuttings or just general help with taking care of their plants it's given me a terrific way to connect with others in my community."

From the age of 10, Eric attended the St Vincent's Boy's Home in Parramatta, Sydney where, in addition to classroom lessons, he was taught trades and technical skills.

"These practical skills came in handy as the orphanage was self-supporting. Because of our need to be self-reliant, we grew our own vegetables from seeds which taught me valuable skills such as responsibility and self-confidence, from a young age."

He said since then, gardening has remained a passionate hobby for many years.

"Especially as I used to grow vegetables and flowers for my family in the backyard. I love gardening as it gives me an interest and after all, we all need a little sunshine, fresh air and something to do."

Here are Eric shares his top tips for gardening, and staying active:

  • Keep aerating the soil so that water can soak into the ground.
  • Don't plant plants too close together - make sure you can dig in between them.
  • Rake up dead leaves and grass and bury it to make good soil when it rots, which helps to keep the moisture in.
  • Look after your body by sleeping, eating and exercising well.
  • To keep active, I swim three times a day and try to exercise before I go to sleep.
  • I usually lie down and do tummy crunches while I try to touch my toes as it helps tighten my stomach muscles.

Benefits for seniors

Ben Miura, Senior Designer at Landsberg Garden Design, agrees with Eric that there are numerous physical and mental health benefits related to gardening and being in nature.

He says gardening reduces stress, gets the body moving, boosts cognitive functions and feel-good hormones, increases social interaction and alerts the senses.

"Gardening can have numerous benefits for seniors," he said. "It gets people physically active and can remind people of their younger years."

He said while it's important to be sun-safe there's also the health benefits from getting vitamin D.

"The activity of gardening and watching things grow can be a social activity and makes people feel a part of a community. You're breathing in fresh air, not air through an air conditioning unit, and it can also be really enjoyable to harvest food and flowers."

He said there's also the sensory enjoyment - smelling, touching, looking, listening and remembering.

Ben says its never too late to take up gardening. Here are his top tips for a beginners:

  • Speak to your local nursery about the most suitable plants for your area and observe what they are selling.
  • Understand the environment of your garden; sunlight, heat, moisture
  • Prepare the soil. If the soil is not good the plant will struggle or get off to a bad start.
  • Irrigate to your plants' needs and current water restrictions.
  • It's a good idea to garden early in the morning or late in the day to prevent too much sun exposure. Always wear sun protection and remember to drink water. Take your time while gardening, take breaks.
  • Start a gardening journal, this is enjoyable and helpful. Make notes on what you've seen or done in the garden.

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