Barriers to gardening for older women and methods to overcome them

  • Eline Kolk

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis investigates the difficulties older women experience, to aid in the development of more suitable gardens, gardening interventions and tools, enabling older women to continue participating successfully. As women age, health and wellbeing can be improved and maintained through gardening. However, many older women have to reduce time spent on horticultural activities or modify the activities or tools used, thus reducing the positive effects of the activity. A mixed method sequential research design identifies and hones in on barriers for the older women. To understand gardening participation among older women, an online survey was held. Through statistical analysis, older women were found to be more driven by experiential motivators than men, showing gardening has potential to serve as a sustainable means of keeping up physical activity, provided the activities can be successfully completed. A correlation between enjoyment and perceived difficulty of gardening tasks was found. Enjoyment of most tasks was high and perceived difficulty low, with moving heavy objects the least enjoyed and most difficult. As moving heavy objects was found to often be left to others but a supporting task to other garden activities, it was further investigated. In focus groups, it was found that moving compost bags presented a clear and concrete problem for older women, along with moving potted plants and carrying and moving heavy tools. Environmental factors specific to the garden environment were mentioned frequently as providing challenges to move heavy objects across them, along with tool characteristics. The task was further explored through observations in gardens, which were analysed using Rapid Entire Body Analysis. One of the results of this investigation was that navigating steps and height differences whilst carrying loads or manoeuvring a sack truck created situations of high musculoskeletal injury risk. The impact of navigating steps on the older woman’s body was evaluated through a biomechanical analysis using motion capture in combination with the Biomechanics of Bodies software to identify impact within specific joints whilst using different assistive movers (wheelbarrows, garden trolley, sack truck, step climber sack truck). Increased obstacle height led to increased forces required and even with limited loads, impact in shoulder and lower back joints was high. Tools were not used in the most efficient manner and recommendations for design improvement were made for all tools.
    Date of AwardMay 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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