Given an increase in the aging population, we have witnessed a growing number of seniors making big moves to assisted living communities. This has encouraged many communities to provide exceptional amenities inside and outside to ensure the highest quality living space and the best aging experience possible for all residents.
While 24/7 assistance and nutritious meals are must-haves, thoughtful design of outdoor spaces is among the most sought-after features when seniors are weighing their options. Let’s discover the role of nature and outdoor spaces in assisted living and how they benefit seniors’ health in the long run.
Outdoor Spaces in Assisted Living: Being Surrounded by Nature Confers Many Benefits For All Seniors
Why Is Nature Connection Vital for Seniors?
The term “nature connection” describes the relationship between humans and nature. This connection is innate and essential because numerous pieces of evidence gathered up to date have shown that being in touch with nature has profound impacts on our lives, no matter at what age.
Contact with nature is vital for early childhood learning and development. For example, breathing in fresh air and touching plants help stimulate their sensory senses and increase their awareness of the outside world. A study published by the American Institute of Research has found that children having more opportunities to connect with nature perform better in school, reflected in a 27% increase in science test scores.
Why do seniors need nature? When older adults aren’t out in nature regularly, they miss out. Being in nature is integral to healthy aging, supporting seniors in sustaining good health and wellness. It also aids in recovering and preventing illness in seniors with chronic health issues. Mental restoration is a benefit that seniors can expect from spending more time in green spaces. Improved mental wellness makes aging less of a stressful experience. It, therefore, adds more years to their life expectancy. In other words, the older we get, the more we must venture out for our health and longevity.
The Role of Outdoor Spaces in Assisted Living
There’s a reason why humans keep yearning to step outside and immerse themselves in nature. The benefits of nature to humans are undeniable. In a few short years, being connected with nature has become more crucial than ever as we are being consumed by smartphones day by day. Let’s discover the benefits of outdoor spaces in assisted living for all seniors.
Cognitive decline is common among Americans, with 2 out of 3 seniors experiencing different symptoms around 70. When seniors have cognitive impairment, memory loss is the first warning sign to watch out for. Although we can’t remember everything (who doesn’t forget?), keep a close eye on your seniors if they forget the names of their friends or miss important appointments more often.
When seniors’ memories fall short, nature is the antidote! Of course, preserving seniors’ brains can be achieved early on with healthy eating and brain-stimulating games. Many studies suggest that nature has protective powers over neurocognitive health, with seniors having their cognitive health and mental state enhanced remarkably when immersing themselves outdoors. It activates their long-gone ability to recall memory. In a study investigating the link between residential outdoor spaces and dementia risk in older adults, seniors living in a zip code with more green space are at reduced hospitalization rates for dementia and memory-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Renews Focus & Attention
Diminished focus and attention span are another consequence of cognitive decline, but nature can fix it — again. Scientists have been in awe of the things that nature may confer on our brains for a very long time. They claim that being present in nature can recharge the brain, followed by the attention restoration theory (ART) by two psychologists, Stephen and Rachel Kaplan.
Outdoor spaces can have a significant impact on attention functioning, with a study finding that those living in neighborhoods with more green spaces have better attention spans than those who do not have equal access to green spaces. If your seniors find their concentration wavering, taking a stroll in outdoor spaces in assisted living could help. It supports them in renewing attention span, boosting alertness, and reducing mental fatigue. Such improvements are beneficial for seniors during tasks requiring attention, like writing an email or sending a text.
Busts Agitation & Anxiety
The older the seniors, the more likely they will suffer from stress and bad moods. The consequences of stress on our health are not breaking news. Overflowing stress can affect our judgment ability, information retention, and logical thinking, not to mention a slew of life-threatening health conditions arising from stress, such as stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, if left untreated.
Connecting with nature helps seniors remedy agitation, dejection, anxiety, despair, and depression; constructing a better, more positive outlook. According to one study, a 20-minute walk in the park can reduce the secretion of salivary cortisol. Multiple studies have claimed that the sights of nature can mitigate stress, leading to a better physical state through brighter moods, enhanced immune system, reduced stress hormone production, and lowered blood pressure, whether it is hiking in the woods, tending a garden, or having a walk around outdoor spaces in assisted living.
Promotes Social Engagement
Many seniors are lonely and isolated in their later years. It’s estimated that approximately 28% of older adults across the United States live alone. This has sparked major public concern among the aging population, as loneliness and social isolation are believed to be the leading cause of higher mortality rates in seniors. They are also linked to many health problems, such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes.
Luckily, seeing more green can help seniors counteract these adverse effects, even in assisted living. When outdoors, seniors have more opportunities to foster communication and form stronger social bonds with other residents. Together, they can provide each other with a foundation of trust, peer support, and encouragement in the battle against loneliness.
Enriches Life Quality
Outdoor spaces in assisted living give seniors more chances to soak up sunlight and breathe in fresh air. When seniors are in touch with nature, their sleep pattern is maintained, as daylight helps to regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Besides the lowered risk of osteoporosis, high doses of vitamin D from sunlight contact also contribute to an optimal immune system, allowing seniors to fight, recover, and avoid illnesses. Moreover, plants emit phytoncides — a compound that promotes the multiplication of white blood cells, and these cells are essential for combating infections. All of these can benefit seniors’ aging journey in the long run. When seniors get quality sleep time and are less likely to get sick, their overall quality of life improves, leaving more room for enjoyable activities and adventures.
More Green More Outdoor Spaces at 12 Oaks Communities
Seeing more green through outdoor spaces in assisted living can benefit seniors’ aging journey for many reasons. It keeps their brain health in check while allowing them to explore the world around them and bond with other residents in a home-like setting.
At 12 Oaks Communities, we pride ourselves on skillfully incorporating various resources to make seniors feel more connected to the outside world, whether it is creating fun recreational activities or designing green spaces where our residents can get together and have a chat under covered patios or having a morning walk along walking paths decorated with lush green plants and vibrant flowers.
If you have questions about outdoor spaces in assisted living or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks Senior Living Communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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