Mel Walsh: ‘Green geezers’ need to stay safe |

Mel Walsh: ‘Green geezers’ need to stay safe

Today, class, we will talk about older adults and horticulture – geezers in the garden – and what better place for older people to be unless it’s on an island with Paul Newman or Sophia Loren – reader’s choice.

Now when it comes to older adults in the garden, the spirit is willing, but the body may be going south. Some of us can’t lift those big bags of dirt or can’t kneel for long – or even at all.

And when you’re older, it’s hard to rebalance fast enough to avoid a hard fall when tripping over a hose or a flagstone and the ER bills of my falling friends are alarming. They were attacked by their gardens, tripping on rocks or over pots. But lucky for us, there are things all of us can do so we can garden safely and comfortably after 50 – or after the onset of arthritis, whichever comes first.

Remove obstacles. Roll up the hoses, fix the unsteady flagstones, keep the pots out of the path. Sounds simple to the level of Duh!, but the smartest people I know are crashing to the ground over hoses, rocks and pots.

Don’t break your back with heavy stuff. A hurt spine isn’t worth it. Take it from one done in by a ficus tree. After Ficusgate, I learned to use a small hand truck for large plants, pots and big bags of soil. Look in local hardware stores or check

Get a garden kneeler/seat. This is a genius invention. Use it one way and it is a little padded board to kneel on with two sturdy side handles to help you push up to a standing position. But turn the kneeler upside down, and it is a little seat to use while tending plants. If you can’t find one locally, has kneeler/seats.

Get knee pads. If you don’t want to go the kneeler/seat route, get knee pads. They may not be fashionable, but they go where you go because they fasten around your legs.

Use long-handled tools. Marketers know the country is getting older. Available now are long-handled tools like trowels. Some of them have nice fat handles for a comfortable hold.

Use raised pots, raised beds and window boxes. If the gardener can’t get down in the dirt, bring the dirt to the gardener. Build raised beds or dig in on the top of a low retaining wall. Hang and place pots where you can reach them easily – no bending.

Conserve energy. Yeah, we used to garden all day. Heck, I used to garden all the month of May stopping only for fertilizer refills. But the energy factory in this body is not what it used to be. So space it out. Slow but sure will get it done. For me, it’s garden and nap, garden and write, garden and goof off.

Stay cool. Global warming means geezer warming, so commune with the roses early in the day or in the twilight. Light hats will keep the sun from sizzling the brain. Light-weight clothes, a bottle of water in easy reach – these all help. And check out something called a cooling scarf, a bandana filled with little bits of polymer which, when soaked in water, will hold the moisture for hours, cooling the hot gardener.

For more help: Google accessible gardening and/or gardening for seniors.

Words for the wise

Courtesy of cable Channel 12, the Sacramento CBS affiliate, you can see yours truly demonstrating some of these geezer gardening tips live on Wednesday, June 20 between 9 and 10 a.m. I’ll be on the morning show, “Good Day Sacramento,” with the tricks and techniques that make gardening fun, safe and rewarding for older adults.

So whether your thumb is green or brown, tune in and give Mother Nature a chance. And she’s the one thing that’s older than we are and she’s still going strong.


The author of four non-fiction books, gerontologist Mel Walsh has a new book of advice for the 50+ woman: “Hot Granny,” published by Chronicle Books. Write More info at

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