Being outside and working with plants is a fabulous way for people with physical or emotional challenges to learn new skills or regain lost skills.
More and more, health-care professionals are recognizing what gardeners have always instinctively known: gardening is good not only for the soul but also for the body.
Horticultural or garden therapy is widely recognized and is used in hospitals, rehab centers, prisons, nursing homes and schools across the country. One excellent source of information on horticultural therapy is the American Horticultural Therapy Association. If you're an able-bodied gardener with time and energy to give to your community, you may want to volunteer at a local horticultural therapy garden.
Adapting a Garden
Solid paths can be made to accommodate wheelchairs, and raised beds can make a vegetable garden a pleasure for chair-bound individuals. Raised beds that are about 30" to 36" tall are a good choice. Typically, beds that can be accessed from at least three sides can be about two arm-lengths deep and still be fully accessible. Raised beds that can be accessed from only one side should be shallower (about one arm-length deep) so the gardener can reach in and work the entire bed without stretching.
Raised beds are great in other ways, too. They're good for growing vegetables because they provide good drainage; in addition, the soil tends to warm up faster in the spring, which plants love.
It's often difficult for older people to bend or stoop all the way to the ground. But raised beds eliminate that problem. Even raising beds as little as 18" or 20" in a home garden can make a difference in accessibility for an older person.