Houseplants: Nature’s Medicine for Seniors


The calming effects of nature are undeniable, and with the help of some indoor houseplants, we can incorporate that calming effect into our homes and our everyday lives. Whether it’s too hot outside, there’s snow on the ground, or the outdoors just aren’t for you, keeping house plants is a great way to reap many of the benefits that come from nature without having to worry about whether or not you can go outside. Caring for houseplants is a low stress activity that’s perfect for seniors.


There are many varieties of houseplants, and many different uses for them. Keep reading to learn about their health benefits for seniors and which varieties are best for elderly adults.


Air Quality


Even when plants are not necessarily being used for medicinal purposes, merely having them around can lead to physiological benefits. We all know that plants use carbon dioxide for their cellular respiration and dispense oxygen as a byproduct, and houseplants are no exception. While the amount of oxygen given off by one small houseplant will probably not make a noticeable difference in your life, having larger quantities of oxygen in the air you breathe can help to promote brain function. Additionally, certain house plants were identified as being able to filter harmful toxins out of the air, a quality that elderly lungs will appreciate.


Reduce Pain, Discomfort, and Recovery Time

According to Washington State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, “Results of a study of elderly residents in an assisted living facility who participated in a project to grow indoor plants in their rooms found that they reported significantly improved feelings of health after working with the plants.”3 Additionally, other studies showed that people experiencing acute pain were less likely to take pain medication when surrounded by greenery. According to Healthline, “Research revealed that people recuperating from several kinds of surgery needed less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays than people who weren’t looking at greenery during their recovery periods.”4


Reduce Stress and Brighten Mood

In addition to providing physiological benefits, houseplants also offer psychological benefits. Many of us at one point or another have experienced the calming effects of nature, but did you know that houseplants can have the same calming effect? Even when we’re not actively looking at our plants, having plants — even indoor potted plants — in our peripheral vision can reduce stress. Since houseplants are good at reducing stress levels, they are also a great way to brighten your mood. People who are surrounded by plants tend to feel more satisfied in their environment. 


Improve Productivity and Focus

Studies cited by Washington State University also found that people tend to be more productive when they are surrounded by plants. Participants of the study who were surrounded by plants were able to complete tasks specifically involving concentration and mental processing 12% faster than participants who were plantless. Additionally, “Mental fatigue has also been shown to be reduced by plants.”3 When surrounded by plants, people feel rejuvenated and ready to focus, but unlike stimulants which can leave you feeling fatigued later in the day, plants provide long-lasting relief. While caring for a live houseplant offers its own pleasure, simply having one sitting in your line of vision is enough to improve your everyday life.


Which Plants Are Right for You?

From big plants to small plants, flowering plants to leafy plants, fake plants to medicinal plants, there are so many different types of houseplants, and each one comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here we’ll go through some common types of houseplants and what you should know about each of them so that you can decide which plants will be right for you and your lifestyle.


Spider Plants

Even though spiders can be terrifying, spider plants are actually delightful. Its long, skinny leaves that wildly branch out from the base and curl toward the ground are what this plant is named for because they tend to resemble a spider’s legs, but the resemblance ends there. Their smooth, green leaves make them wonderfully calming plants. Their number of leaves also make them a good plant if you are looking for something to filter the air. The NASA Clean Air Study determined that spider plants were effective in filtering out harmful airborne toxins and indoor air pollution.5 However, spider plants are flowering plants, which means that they can be a source of allergens, but sometimes these plants rarely flower, and if you don’t typically have bad allergies, this is still a wonderful, resilient plant that brings joy and is easy to care for.


Aloe Vera

When we hear aloe vera, we usually end up thinking about the aloe vera gel that’s sold at pharmacies and grocery stores, but aloe vera plants have a similar substance inside of them. You can cut a leaf off of a plant and crack it open to find a gel-like substance which can be rubbed onto minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, much like the aloe vera gels that you can find at the store. While some people think that the gel they buy in the store is the same thing that’s in the plant, the truth is that they can be very different. A lot of store-bought aloe vera gels only contain a small concentration of the plant-substance, usually being mostly made of water, alcohol, and other additives. Owning an aloe vera plant will allow you to glean the real, all-natural aloe vera gel. Being able to use this higher concentration of aloe will allow you to reap more of its healing properties, which is especially good for seniors whose skin can be damaged more easily and take longer to heal. Aloe vera gel is very beneficial for elderly skin.



There are many different types of succulents. In fact, aloe vera is actually a succulent itself, but when you’re buying plants at the store, many different types of succulents are grouped together while aloe vera is put on its own pedestal. For the rest of our succulent friends, the same basic care principles are usually applicable to most of them. Succulents generally don’t need a lot of water or a lot of sunlight. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to overwater your succulents. Typically, just a little bit of water once a week is all you need to keep them healthy, although the amount of water needed will depend on the size and species of the plant.


While some succulents can grow to be quite large, most sold at stores are very small. While it’s better to have a bunch of smaller plants scattered throughout your house than it is to try to care for a giant plant that has to stay in one room, this is especially true for seniors. It’s advantageous for seniors to care for smaller plants because they are easy to move around. Sometimes finding the right combination of direct and indirect sunlight can take some trial and error, and trying to move around a large, heavy plant like that can be dangerous, but with an Alert1 In-Home + Fall Detection Medical Alert system to back you up, caring for even the largest of plants can become much less worrisome.


Flowers in the House

Flowers are beautiful, and usually seeing them helps to brighten our day more than any other houseplant, but flowering houseplants aren’t for everyone. According to Gardening Know How, “Any flowering houseplant has the potential to cause airborne allergens. If you are allergic to pollen, you should avoid flowering houseplants.”7 When severe allergies are exacerbated, they can cause discomfort and lead to severe upper respiratory infections. Elderly lungs shouldn’t be full of allergens, but if you’re a senior with bad allergies, the occasional flower shouldn’t be a problem, especially if you are prepared for a possible allergy attack by wearing an Alert1 On-the-Go+Fall Detection medical alert necklace to call for help; but ideally, these flowering plants, like orchids and stephanotis, shouldn’t be living inside the home for seniors with allergies.


Fake Plants

If gardening has never been your thing, and after reading this you realize that caring for plants isn’t either, you can still reap some of the benefits with fake plants. While fake plants won’t detoxify the air, can’t be used as medicine, and won’t help you de-stress the same way as caring for a plant can do, you can still experience similar psychological benefits from owning a bit of greenery. With fake plants, you’ll never have to worry about allergens or whether or not you’re caring for them properly, and they can still bring you joy and comfort.


Your friends at Alert1 wish you a relaxing summer and the calming effects of a good houseplant!