Everyday Access to Nature Improves Quality of Life in Older Adults

Natural environments promote physical, mental and spiritual healing.  People can obtain health benefits by spending time outside in remote places to “get away from it all.” Green and blue spaces are especially beneficial for healthy aging in seniors.

Effects of blue and green spaces for older adults demonstrates that, by incorporating smaller features such as a koi pond or a bench with a view of flowers, public health and urban development plans can enhance nature as a health resource for older adults. Green and blue spaces promoted feelings of renewal, restoration and spiritual connection.  They also provided places for multi-generational social interactions and engagement along with planned activities with friends and families, and impromptu gatherings with neighbors.

A relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health for seniors.  Accessibility to everyday green and blue spaces can encourage seniors to simply get out the door.  This then motivates them to be active physically, spiritually and socially, which can offset chronic illness, disability and isolation.

Importance of everyday contact with nature

While younger generations may use green and blue spaces more to escape and rejuvenate from their busy work life, participants in a special study used nature to be active physically, spiritually and socially in later life.  Many overcame barriers due to chronic illness, disability and progressing old age to connect regularly with green and blue spaces.

Natural environments empower older adults to uphold daily structure in retirement and  provide opportunities for varied activities outside the home, according to the study.  This is important to quality of later life by decreasing boredom, isolation and loneliness; as well as boosting one’s sense of purpose and accomplishment.  Blue space provides opportunities for non-weight bearing physical activity and physiotherapy including walking, swimming and hiking.  Waterfront areas are comforting sites for spiritual connection and relaxing places to escape the strains of life.

Building communities that serve people throughout their lifetimes is important. They don’t just need a playground for children, they also need sheltered benches for the grandparents to watch them.  Hopefully  urban planners and developers start and continue to build communities that span a lifetime, according to the findings.

Three tips for healthier aging:

1. Focus on your overall well being: mental and social health are just as important as physical health when aging.

2. Get out the door regularly, even if it’s just to the end of the block and back.

3. Prioritize everyday contact with nature whether it’s sitting in a park, listening to a water fountain or looking at potted plants on a windowsill.

Lisa Burbage

Comments are closed.