Avid gardeners often are frustrated when a temporary or permanent disability leaves them unable to pursue their pastime.
Perhaps given incentive by the knowledge that our population is aging, many companies are coming to the rescue with new products, and there are some hints that can make gardening easier for those with arthritis or other disabilities, or even those who use wheelchairs.
Bending is difficult for many people, but it's possible to make bending easier by using a "kneeler bench" with handles and padded seat. For those who cannot bend, a raised garden bed is an option, albeit a more costly one.
For those who want to try the raised bed option, the height of the beds can be determined by the person, depending on whether they need to garden from a seated position or not. Beds should be no wider than about 2 feet (unless there is access on all sides, then they could be as much as 4 feet wide), and should have a 3-foot pathway between them if wheelchair access is needed. Wheelchair users should take note, however, that to work a raised bed the ability to lean forward and to the side is needed to do so effectively. Raised beds will also require more frequent watering.
Proper tools can often make life much easier for the older or disabled gardener.
The Fiskars Company, for example, has tools such as loppers and hedge trimmers with geared handles that reduce cutting effort by 50 percent.
It also has a long-handled grass clipper so the trimming can be done with no bending, and garden trowels with padded handles to make gripping easier for arthritic hands.
The Broll cart makes it easier to haul soil, stones, water, and other materials in a 5-gallon bucket dolly (http://www.brolltools.com/how-to-broll/).
All are available at Amazon.com if your local retailer doesn't carry them. Amazon also carries a small plastic planter that is high enough to use as a "raised bed" on a patio or balcony for those who are living in apartments but still want to grow a few flowers, or even some vegetables or a little herb garden.
The Washington State University Extension Service has a nice website with great information on gardening with a disability (http://pnwmg.org/mgdisabilities.html). There are links to some publications that address specific disabilities, such as gardening with heart disease, arthritis, limited range of motion, as well as suggestions for gardening for the visually impaired. The following page has information on gardening for those who are confined to a wheelchair: (http://pnwmg.org/pdf/mgwheelchair.pdf)
There is a wealth of informative links on the Gardening Forever web site, including tips on growing an asthma friendlier garden, or how to save your back while gardening: (http://www.gardenforever.com/)
Creative older and disabled people with a love for gardening can usually find a way to continue their passion by altering their methods, finding tools that can help, and accepting some friendly help from others with the same passion.
Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann's local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.