Gardens and gardening in later life

Authored by: Christine Milligan , Amanda Bingley

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033


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In this chapter we explore the relationship between gardens and gardening activity in later life and the meanings older people ascribe to the domestic garden. As the work of Cheng et al. (2010) in Australia points out, retirement marks a significant rise in older people’s levels of interest and attachment not just to the garden, but also to activities associated with it. In the UK, 62 per cent of adults over the age of 65 years undertake gardening activity in their spare time, compared with just 16 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 years of age (Seddon, 2011). This reinforces earlier survey work undertaken with adults in the UK demonstrating that, as an activity, gardening is largely seen as an ‘older person’s hobby’ (Mintel, 2003). This growth of interest has been mirrored by a burgeoning of television and radio programmes in the UK, North America and Australia, all devoted to gardens and garden ‘makeovers’, and a growing consumer industry built around the garden centre, horticultural shows, specialist botanical and other public gardens (Taylor, 2002; Clayton, 2007; Cheng et al. 2010). Where finances allow, significant numbers of those aged over 50 will use their increased leisure time to engage with these environments, either for their restorative qualities or to gain inspiration for their own domestic gardens. This chapter is specifically concerned with: the relational and embodied modes of engagement older people have with their domestic gardens and how this can change over the lifecourse, particularly post-retirement; the meanings people attach to their gardens in later life; and the gendered nature of this relationship.

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