Is there anything better than the sun shining on your face and a cool breeze tickling your skin on a warm day? There’s no denying the endorphin rush that often comes with time spent in the great outdoors. In fact, a 2019 study found that those who spend 2 to 3 hours a week in nature are about 20% more likely to report high overall satisfaction in their lives when compared to those who spent no time at all outdoors.
As we age, we often spend less and less time outside. Though the mental and physical benefits of time spent outdoors remain just as—if not more—important to our overall health and happiness. For seniors, a decrease in mobility and independence can lead to a sharp decline in outdoor time during a stage in their life when they need it the most.
One of the biggest benefits of fresh air for older adults is the exposure to Vitamin D from sunlight. Sunlight plays a huge role in mental health, as it can cause a significant mood boost, lift spirits, and ward off seasonal depression. For physical health, the bone strengthening effects of Vitamin D can help reduce fractures and other injuries from falls. In addition, research has shown a link between low levels of Vitamin D and individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease. On the bright side (no pun intended), it only takes 30 minutes a day to benefit from the effects.
For seniors already experiencing memory loss, sunshine and fresh air can improve certain behavioral symptoms of dementia including agitation, aggression, and wandering. Multi-sensory activities like listening to birds chirp, touching plants, and smelling flowers can improve verbal expressions, memory, and attention.
Other health benefits of time spent outside include reduced stress, the opportunity for exercise, and better sleep patterns. Nature has a calming effect on all age groups, from infants to the elderly, but the comforting sound of water flowing or the beauty of a butterfly fluttering by can be especially impactful for elderly adults. Taking a walk outside also provides an excellent opportunity for exercise. Incorporating a daily walk, no matter how short or slow, can have a massive effect on improving a senior’s muscular and cardiovascular health.
Outdoor time isn’t just helpful during waking hours—it can also improve sleep. Fresh air and sunlight cue your body and brain that it’s time to be active. With a sustained period of this active state, your body naturally produces melatonin, which causes deeply restful nighttime sleep. For seniors, many of whom are predisposed to diminished deep sleep and more time in the lighter stages of sleep, this can be a huge benefit.
As seniors age and transition into independent and assisted living facilities, spending ample time outdoors becomes increasingly important. Our community at St. Martin’s in the Pines was designed with this mind. The campus features plentiful green spaces that encourage guests to get out of their rooms or apartments, get outdoors, and socialize with others. In addition to providing these spaces and making them accessible to all residents, St. Martin’s also encourages outdoor time through thoughtful programming and a robust events schedule. Past activities have included outdoor parties with live music, gardening, enjoying al fresco dining, and visiting with animals from local farms.
Find out more about how St. Martin’s in the Pines can help your loved one improve their health and happiness with more outdoor time by clicking here.