Go out­side and play!

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FIFTY PLUS - By Marla Cooper

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.

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