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How to Enjoy Gardening Pain-Free

New tools make the hobby less of a strain

Two women knelling in a garden with garden tools in their hand.

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This mother and daughter could prevent joint pain by placing padded kneelers under their knees.

Since Jim Detjen retired from his job as a professor five years ago, he has spent as many as 20 hours a week tending to his backyard garden in Okemos, Mich. "I love it. There's a real joy in watching plants grow," the 70-year-old says. But arthritis in his hands and back have posed challenges. So he purchased a scooter that he can roll on, so he doesn't have to constantly bend over as he moves from one plant to the next. He also got some pruning shears with a 5-foot-long handle so he doesn't need to get on a ladder to reach high spots.

Specialized tools that minimize the physical toll of planting and weeding have become more common. According to Garden Research, 37 percent of gardening product sales were made to consumers 55 and older in 2017, more than any other age group. Among that group, spending for gardening tools nearly doubled over the previous year. Claudia Marshall, a spokeswoman for Gardeners Supply Co. in Burlington, Vt., says sales of adaptive and enabling garden products "are strong and show no signs of abating." Among the retailer's most popular products is a padded kneeler that protects a gardener’s knees from strain. Marshall says her customers are thrilled to learn that "you can garden into your 60s, 70s and even into your 80s with adaptive gardening tools."

The Arthritis Foundation has bestowed its Ease of Use Commendation — indicating that people with arthritis will find it easy to use — on 13 gardening products, ranging from pruning shears that allow for less resistant cutting to a weed remover that doesn't require kneeling.

Detjen is grateful such tools are available. "I do have a tendency to overdo it," he says. "Having these tools allows me to enjoy the gardening without having as many aches and pains."

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