Have you planned your aging-in-place garden for contentment?

Contentment is defined as satisfaction with one’s life, a state of relaxation and happiness. Cassie Mogilner, in The Shifting Meaning of Happiness, reports that our sense of happiness changes over our lives. Young adults find happiness in excitement, focusing on the future in events such as graduation, a wedding, the birth of a child, purchase of a house. Older adults find happiness in peacefulness, focusing on the present in small moments.

Ohio beech-maple woods - photo by Derek Hennen

Ohio beech-maple woods - photo by Derek Hennen

Begin by thinking about the landscapes you experienced as a child, the landscapes you saw and the landscapes you explored. The starting point is your imagination and your memories.

Here's an example of a  landscape experience with real impact:

As a teenager, a friend moved from the beech-maple forests of western Ohio to southern Arizona and suddenly had a different visual experience of the natural world. Looking out the car window at desert punctuated by occasional tall Saguaro cactus, she was strongly affected by the huge contrasts in this very different landscape and fell in love with its sense of calm.

Those memories could be the backbone for a garden of contentment, offering experiences that affect all the senses and remind us to enjoy the present:

  • Trees widely spaced and solitary with open space between them, filled with mulch or low ground covers
  • Trees native to the area deliberately chosen to offer just light, dappled shade
  • A variety of native warm-season grasses to provide tawny color through fall and winter
  • Other plants selected for their vertical or spiky form and ephemeral flowering
  • Drainage across the yard using gravel washes to handle surface runoff

Because the need for coolness can be demanding in a desert environment, a shaded concrete patio and concrete paths provide sensory delight to feet walking bare or lightly shod.

Kimber, Western Australia - photo copyright Steve Robertson, Portland, Victoria, Australia.

Kimber, Western Australia - photo copyright Steve Robertson, Portland, Victoria, Australia.

The desert also offers amazing odors. Some plants yield scents in the heat of the day as the sun causes their essential oils to release. Others release wonderful fragrances after a rain. Small structures, even light fencing, can direct the breezes to the perfect sitting spot to enjoy the scents on the breeze even in a small yard.

Contentment in the yard?

Contentment starts with your sensory connection to the possibilities in the landscape. Exploring nature with specific exercises using your five senses can bring back memories of your early experiences and provide cues about how you respond now. Careful Elderyarding® design of your yard can create the perfect environment to experience many small moments of satisfaction and happiness.

Call 512.917-5758 or email ann@enjoysecondsummer.com when you’re ready to put contentment in your aging-in-place garden.