The New York Times recently published an article about the risk of falling for Baby Boomers and older seniors Falling, and the possibility of a broken hip that requires the move to a nursing home, are two of the biggest fears as people age. You may think you will be immune to falling, and you’re not alone. Geriatricians report many of us don’t recognize how our sense of balance changes with age and with common medications that cause dizziness. Among these are medicines for high blood pressure, depression, even antibiotics and pain medications.
If you have already made changes to reduce the risk of falls inside your home, it’s time to check the outside. Looking at your yard, it may appear to be low risk because it’s familiar.
But take a look at how a historic garden can help us to think more deeply about outdoor risk.
When traveling in Georgia recently, I had the chance to visit The Hills and Dales Estate, the family home of Fuller Callaway, with its pre-Civil War gardens started by Nancy Ferrell in 1832. The estate was opened to the public in 2004 and is well worth a visit. The home and grounds are splendid.
Because the gardens are over 100 years old, I found many great ideas that could be translated to a home garden and will share those in future blogs.
I also encountered examples that could be problems in a home landscape once you apply an Elderyarding perspective. Here are some things you might want to check for in your garden:
- A fence’s shade pattern on the path that can affect depth perception
- A tripping hazard caused by that wonderful big tree you planted years ago
- A solid surface near the benches where you relax, but the paving needs repair
- A mulch path that collects sticks or pine cones that make the surface unstable
- Steps of different heights that can cause hesitation when going up or down
Clearly the grounds at The Hills and Dales Estate are beautifully designed and well-maintained.
That's what makes a visit here so valuable. Because a large garden like this is unfamiliar, I looked at it in careful detail. That experience of noticing different elements in this garden refreshed my vision for considering my own garden. I encourage you to take a closer look at the yard surrounding your home. Maybe it’s too familiar, maybe you are used to navigating uneven stairs, wet leaves creating a slick walkway, shade dense enough to hide tree roots above the ground. Use public gardens, especially old historic ones that you rarely visit to help you see your own yard differently, and with an eye to reducing the risk of falls to keep you aging well.