Green spaces help seniors fight the blues
Going outside and spending time in nature is relaxing for many and often used as a stress reduction tool. Now, a new study finds that spending time in nature can significantly improve the health and quality of life for seniors.
The study, published in the journal Health and Place, looked at the impact of green and “blue” spaces – those that include still or running water – on the health of seniors. According to their results, both green and blue spaces provided emotional benefits, such as increased spiritual connectedness and in-person social interactions, which can decrease boredom, isolation and loneliness.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota interviewed low-income adults between 65 and 86 years old. Participants came from multiple racial groups and reported a wide range of chronic conditions and levels of health.
“Many people use time outdoors as an escape from stress and the rigors of daily life,” said Dr. Mirza Baig, a family medicine physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “It makes sense that time in nature may serve the same purpose for seniors – although it is an escape of another kind.”
Study participants reported that they found such great benefit in reconnecting with nature that many overcame barriers such as chronic illness and disability to enjoy green and blue spaces.
Natural spaces don’t need to be elaborate to be beneficial, according to the study. Adding things like a fish pond or installing a bench with a view of flower beds can make a difference.
“Sometimes getting outside into a natural environment can be difficult, especially for older adults who have health conditions or limited mobility,” says Dr. Baig. “Fortunately, there are many ways to bring elements of nature inside to them, as well, like houseplants, small fountains or windowsill herb or butterfly gardens.”