Research indicates that a natural environment promotes healing on multiple levels – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social. You stand to become healthier simply by staying outside, enjoying nature, and getting away from everyday routine.
This is particularly true with seniors. A new study conducted by a graduate student of the University of Minnesota with assistance from a team from Vancouver, B.C. supports the belief that seniors who live in blue and green spaces – environments featuring still or running water and green and lush foliage – tend to enjoy better health.
This study, which was featured by the Health and Place Journal, shows a strong relationship between senior well-being and therapeutic landscapes. Even simple features like a bench with a view of thriving blooms or a small koi pond can be therapeutic for senior people.
Such environments apparently make one feel physically energized, emotionally renewed, and spiritually connected. Senior people exhibit strong positive reactions to such environments, particularly when the experience is coupled with happy, engaging, and meaningful interactions with family members and friends.
The study was conducted on adults between the ages of 65 and 86 living in Vancouver, B.C, belonging to the low-income bracket, and coming from multiple ethnic and racial groups. The participants displayed a wide range of chronic health conditions and experiences.
Jessica Finlay, principal project researcher and lead author of the research paper, discloses that the study demonstrates that even ordinary experiences in natural environments – the comforting sound of running water, the sight of bees flocking to flowers, the cool and refreshing feel of the breeze – can have a significant impact on one’s health and general sense of well-being. Finlay is now working on her doctoral degree in the University of Minnesota, pursuing studies on geography and gerontology. She continues to study the influence of the environment on the general health and disposition of senior people.
Finlay says that a natural environment helps to give older people a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of purpose, and the enthusiasm to interact with other people. It keeps them from being bored, lonely, and feeling isolated. It also provides a wide range of opportunities to get physically active. Blue space enables them to go swimming, wading, or fishing. Blue and green spaces allow them to relax, meditate, and commune with nature. A natural environment helps foster physical, spiritual, emotional and social well-being, offsetting chronic illnesses and depression in seniors.
The capacity to age well depends on certain things, according to Finlay. Seniors should not simply focus on maintaining physical health. The mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of well-being are just as important. It is essential for adults to get out of the house, even if this simply means walking down the block. Nature plays a critical role in one’s ability to remain healthy.
Taking care of potted windowsill plants, sitting on a bench in the park, enjoying the sight and sound of a water fountain, gazing at the stars, visiting a koi pond – all these may be simple activities, but they help seniors stay young in mind and body.