ADAPTIVE GARDENING: IMPROVING ACCESSIBILITY AND INJURY PREVENTION Sullivan, J., Agriculture Agent, University of Florida IFAS Extension-Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL, Pabon, E., Residential Horticulture Agent, University of Florida IFAS Extension-Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL
Situation: Gardening can be a relaxing hobby that improves our physical and psychological health, with benefits including lowering blood pressure, improving motor skills, and reducing stress and depression. Gardening, however, can become an overwhelming or harmful activity if inappropriate landscape designs or gardening techniques are used. Gardeners are susceptible to injury if they do not use gardening methods, tools, and layouts that are appropriate for them. Many potential or life-long gardeners find themselves unable to perform gardening tasks due to time or space limitations, or physical conditions such as changing flexibility, reduced vision, or injury. Most gardeners have constraints, but that does not have to prevent them from experiencing the enjoyment and therapeutic benefits of gardening. Methods: The Agriculture Extension Agent developed an Adaptive Gardening presentation that featured gardening methods that are adaptive to the individual’s physical ability or environment. The objective of the program was to teach people how to make their gardening activities easier and safer, ultimately preventing injury and making gardening more enjoyable. The presentation utilizes adaptive tools and multi-media instructional slides, and demonstrates gardening stances and exercises to reduce the physical strain of gardening. Results: Three-hundred Master Gardener volunteers and home gardeners were educated in Adaptive Gardening techniques. In addition to Master Gardeners sharing Adaptive Gardening tips with clients in the Plant Clinic, several Master Gardeners were trained to offer the program in the community, expanding educational outreach efforts. Preliminary follow-up survey results of Adaptive Gardening participants indicate they adopted safer gardening practices such as designing lower-maintenance gardenscapes and using tools and gardening methods that prevent injury. Conclusion: Teaching people about gardening is valuable, but teaching people how to garden in a practical and safe manner is imperative. Adaptive Gardening education empowers people to care for their health and enjoy gardening.