When seniors interact with nature, it’s bound to make them smile. Moreover, some outdoor activities can summon their laughter and cause healthy changes to occur in their brains and circulation. Here’s how contact with nature can benefit your senior loved one.
Sharper Focus & Memory
Engaging with nature can boost attention span and recall. In 2008, University of Michigan psychology researchers discovered this cognitive benefit. For their study, a group of adults strolled through local city streets. Next, they meandered through a botanical garden. Following each excursion, the adults underwent cognitive testing. Remarkably, after touring the garden, the adults’ recall was 20 percent better. Conversely, they showed no intellectual gains after walking along the city streets. The scientists concluded contact with nature stimulates brain function.
Being in nature is energizing. After 20 minutes in the great outdoors, fatigue evaporates. This was the finding of 2010 research conducted at the University of Rochester. Most exhilarating are nature scenes evoking awe and wonder. An example is watching geese fly overhead in a V formation. Also enthralling are melodic birdsong and glowing sunsets. Even recalling experiences spent in nature is energizing, say scientists. By jogging your loved one’s memory in this way, he or she will be recharged. If going outside isn’t possible, tending indoor plants can enliven your loved one, too. So can sitting before a window with a pretty garden view.
Plants ward off bacteria and fungi by emitting protective compounds called phytoncides. When your loved one inhales phytoncides, his or her white blood cells multiply. These immune cells fight and destroy microbes that cause infections. For a potent dose of phytoncides, take your loved one to a forest, arboretum, or tree-filled park.
On a sunny day, the skin produces vitamin D from the sunlight. Your loved one needs vitamin D for optimal immunity. Seniors tend to be deficient in vitamin D. In older women, vitamin D can curb osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease. Your loved one can easily raise his or her vitamin D levels. All it takes is spending 10 to 30 minutes outdoors three times weekly. If your loved one has fair skin, 10 minutes should suffice.
If you usually help your loved one get out to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air but you need a break now and then, consider having a professional caregiver take over for you. Whether you need respite from your caregiving duties or your aging loved one needs live-in care, Montgomery, Alabama, Home Care Assistance can meet your family’s care needs. Our dedicated caregivers are available around the clock to provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, ensure seniors take their prescribed medications, and help with a variety of tasks in and outside the home.
Natural environments are calming, as shown by a 2010 Japanese study. After the study participants walked through a forest, they had lower pulse rates, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels. Gazing at natural beauty induces a meditative state. Watching the steady rhythm of ocean waves can also have this effect. Also soothing are natural scents, such as ocean breezes and lilacs. As your loved one’s senses absorb the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, his or her mind becomes still. Meanwhile, his or her breathing slows, releasing muscle tension. In turn, nature’s peace can help your loved one sleep better.
Connecting with nature relieves depression and despair. Scientists report that the brain’s neural pathways mirror a person’s emotional state. When someone is constantly sad and dejected, the brain’s prefrontal cortex becomes hyperactive, as shown on MRI scans. Over time, such neural activity can perpetuate a gloomy outlook. Amazingly, contact with nature stabilizes the prefrontal cortex. A 2015 study revealed this desirable change. After the study participants spent time in nature, their brain scans showed less prefrontal activity. As such, the adults reported feeling happier.
Time spent in nature can prevent seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. People with this condition feel depressed during fall and winter, when daylight wanes. Being outdoors in natural light helps the brain make serotonin, a hormone that stimulates joyful thoughts and feelings.
A 2015 study of seniors found natural settings quell boredom. That’s because nature is ever-changing and fascinating. Here’s one way to motivate your loved one: if possible, take him or her to a park, and bring along birdseed. Your loved one will be thrilled to feed the birds. If you make this a habit, your loved one will have something fun to anticipate each day. Plus, feeding wildlife will add purpose and meaning to life.
Boredom and other mental and emotional challenges are common for many aging adults, but seniors don’t have to face them alone. Senior care professionals can be a wonderful boon to seniors. Whether they require around-the-clock supervision or just need assistance with exercise and household tasks a few days a week, seniors can enjoy a higher quality of life with the help of trusted in-home caregivers.
Here are more ideas for engaging your loved one in nature:
- Kite flying
- Riding in a boat
- Going on picnics
Psychologists use the term “ecotherapy” to describe nature’s restorative effects. In particular, ecotherapy has immense value for seniors. It enhances their focus and recall and boosts their energy, motivation, and immunity. Plus, it helps them feel serene and optimistic. Since contact with nature relieves stress, it can help older adults sleep better.
A personal caregiver can ensure time in nature for your loved one. The caregiver can escort your parent to outdoor sites or join him or her in backyard activities. Additionally, a caregiver can help your loved one tend houseplants. If your loved one must stay in bed, he or she can still view nature. For instance, affix a birdhouse with suction cups to the bedroom window, or give your loved one a nature book to page through. According to research, when seniors see photos of nature, they become more attentive and calm.
Seniors with mobility issues or health conditions who need assistance getting outdoors can benefit from the help of trained professional caregivers. Montgomery at-home care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently. Trust your loved one’s care to the professionals at Home Care Assistance. To create a customized home care plan for your loved one, call (334) 593-3988 today.