What Is the Evidence to Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly?
Horticulture therapy employs plants and gardening activities in therapeutic and rehabilitation activities and could be utilized to improve the quality of life of the worldwide aging population, possibly reducing costs for long-term, assisted living and dementia unit residents. Preliminary studies have reported the benefits of horticultural therapy and garden settings in reduction of pain, improvement in attention, lessening of stress, modulation of agitation, lowering of as needed medications, antipsychotics and reduction of falls. This is especially relevant for both the United States and the Republic of Korea since aging is occurring at an unprecedented rate, with Korea experiencing some of the world's greatest increases in elderly populations. In support of the role of nature as a therapeutic modality in geriatrics, most of the existing studies of garden settings have utilized views of nature or indoor plants with sparse studies employing therapeutic gardens and rehabilitation greenhouses. With few controlled clinical trials demonstrating the positive or negative effects of the use of garden settings for the rehabilitation of the aging populations, a more vigorous quantitative analysis of the benefits is long overdue. This literature review presents the data supporting future studies of the effects of natural settings for the long term care and rehabilitation of the elderly having the medical and mental health problems frequently occurring with aging.