“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
Enjoying nature is said to be good for the spirit, no matter the age. But for seniors, being outdoors can be particularly important.
Research conducted by graduate students at the University of Minnesota showed that green, outdoor spaces have the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of seniors. According to the research, seniors who spent ample time in blue and green outdoor areas, such as grassy parks or on the edge of ponds, enjoyed promoted feelings of renewal, restoration, and spiritual connectedness. They also provided places for multi-generational social interactions and engagement, including planned activities with friends and families, and impromptu gatherings with neighbors.
Why does getting outdoors matter? The study found that a senior’s day-to-day life can be mundane, and many seniors aren’t able to go out and explore new places like they once did. This leads to a feeling of isolation and being stuck in the same daily routine.
Fortunately, simple things like the sound of flowing water or seeing birds eating at a feeder can easily break up the daily routine and offer mental and spiritual relief for seniors. Getting outdoors also encourages seniors to increase their physical and mental activity levels, which, in turn, can contribute to warding off things like dementia, cognitive decline, immobility, and disease.
Here are some important facts about being outside for seniors:
- It boosts vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is directly related to an improved immune system and a more positive outlook. Spending about 15 minutes of time each day in the sun is a great way for seniors to increase their levels.
- Nature can help increase immunity. By helping seniors feel more positive and increasing mental health, being outside helps seniors build and maintain healthy immune systems.
- It helps to feel more energized. Getting outside is a great way for sluggish seniors to feel more active.
- People who spend time outside recover from injuries faster. Exposure to natural light is powerful, and people who spend a lot of time outside can recover from injuries faster.
- It helps seniors improve focus. Being outdoors gives the brain a break from everyday multitasking and allows it to form new memories and heal itself from over-extension. This contributes to higher attention levels and improved mental health.
Here are some ideas to encourage seniors to spend some time outdoors.
1. Hang a bird feeder outside a senior’s window. Most people enjoy bird feeders and adding one to a senior’s view is an excellent way to bring some of the dynamic and beautiful interactions of nature just a bit closer. In addition to being easy to maintain, bird feeders are also perfect for virtually any housing situation – even those with limited outdoor space.
2. Arrange pots of colorful flowers outdoors. Flowers are an easy way to increase a person’s enjoyment of nature. If a senior has a patio or deck, run a rim of planted, colorful flowers around it.
3. Spend some time by water. If the senior is in decent health and can venture outdoors either by walking or in a wheelchair, spend some time near a body of water. Ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers are all ideal. The slow, trickling noise of moving water has been proven in multiple studies to calm people and promote a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
4. Go for a walk. Most cities and towns have paved community trail systems designed for walking or biking. In addition, most retirement or assisted living facilities have paved walkways designed for strolling. For seniors who are physically able, going for a walk is a prime way to get out and enjoy nature.
5. Have a picnic. A picnic is a great way to combine the healing benefits of getting outdoors with the positive benefits of being around friends and family.