Cleaning Up Your Own Backyard

Creating Lower-Maintenance Landscapes For Seniors

by Warren Garcia

By the time people reach retirement age, they are not always as active and agile as they used to be. They may not be able to tackle the harder landscaping tasks they used to tackle, like trimming trees and bending down to weed. Luckily, there are lots of ways to make a landscape easier for a senior adult to maintain and care for.

Put landscape fabric over the garden beds.

If there is not already landscaping fabric over the garden beds, definitely put some down. Weeds won't grow through the fabric, which means a senior adult won't need to spend hours hunched over and weeding in an uncomfortable position. Landscaping fabric is quite easy to lay down. You lay it over the garden bed, cut some holes to pop the plants through, and then put a thick layer of mulch down on top of it. You can easily hire a landscaping company to come do this if you're not feeling up to it yourself.

Use plants with low water needs.

Watering a landscape takes a lot of time and may involve unraveling heavy hoses, which is something some seniors can't do. Choosing plants with low water needs minimizes the need for irrigation. Plants that don't need much water include:

  • Cleveland sage
  • Purple fountain grass
  • Mexican feather grass
  • Sedums
  • Desert Rose
  • Lithops

Replace paver paths with gravel.

If there are paver paths throughout the landscape, you may want to remove them and create gravel paths in their place. Pavers tend to get slippery when moist, and they can grow algae and moss that are tough to scrub away. Plus, you have to weed between them. Gravel never needs to be scrubbed clean, has more "grip" which makes it safer to walk on, and does not allow for as much weed growth. 

Plant non-fruit trees. 

When selecting trees for a senior's landscape, always choose trees that don't fruit. Stay away from crabapples and ornamental cherries, for instance. Fruiting trees drop their fruit on the ground, making a mess that may be tough for an older adult to keep cleaned up. They also require a lot of spraying to prevent fungal infections and insect infestations. Non-fruiting trees are simply easier to care for.

As you get older, your abilities change, but it's easy enough to modify the landscaping according to those changing abilities. Talk to a landscaper in your area to gain more ideas for senior-friendly landscaping.