Go outside and play!
We all accept the fact that nature experiences and spending time outdoors is a healthy and necessary part of a happy childhood, right? We know it helps ensure our kids aren’t sitting in front of the television or pounding away at the computer. But do we know what the actual health benefits are? There are significant and real health benefits to spending time outdoors and not simply those associated with exercise. The benefits are many and they don’t stop a childhood, they extend into old age.
There is a growing body of evidence to support the many restorative powers of spending time outdoors for seniors, particularly those experiencing the many symptoms of dementia. The simple act of going outside in the fresh air and sunlight, among the plants and trees can have a calming effect, reducing anxiety and stress. Taking a walk, even a very short one, or sitting outside can improve cognitive function including inquisitiveness, alertness, learning and memory. Any contact with the out of doors, even for as little as 10 to 15 minutes, can have great benefits for seniors.
In particular, studies have found that for those living with dementia, exposure to gardens can be particularly beneficial. Gardens can positively stimulate the senses and promote positive memories and emotions. After gardening activities, dementia patients exhibited improved mobility and dexterity, increased confidence and improved social skills.
However, the availability and accessibility of natural outdoor spaces for seniors to enjoy, particular those with dementia, can be quite limited at times. There is the concern of getting lost or wandering away, safety concerns such as uneven pavement and terrain and lack of availability for those who live in urban environments. Whatever the circumstances, it is worth the effort to try to find some way for seniors to access the out of doors whether living in a private home/apartment or in a senior community setting.
What follows are just a few suggestions:
• Provide an enclosed courtyard, patio or garden (no matter how small) to enjoy the fresh air and simply being outside
• Make going outside a part of the daily routine even in cooler weather (bundle up)
• Consider adding a raised garden or flower pots so seniors can better enjoy the scenery and maybe even garden without having to bend over
• Go outside to play games and have activities normally done inside • Enjoy some birdwatching Be creative and remember, it’s not so much what seniors do outside that’s important, it’s that they get outside!
To learn about enriching the lives of seniors we love and care for, visit:
com/outdoor-elderly-activities.html www.alz.org Promoting Senior Wellness is provided by The Hickman, a Quaker-affiliated licensed personal care home in West Chester. This month’s column was written by Marla Cooper, Director of Advancement.