Senior Living: The Benefits of the Outdoors

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” - Albert Einstein. Most of us recognize the benefits of being active and outdoors, but what if you were a senior with limited mobility? Evidence suggests that it is just as important for our aging population.

It has been long understood that spending time outdoors improves mood. It also increases physical strength and mental acuity.

When caring for seniors in residential assisted living, how can you integrate meaningfully outside time?

What are some beneficial activities you can incorporate to outdoor experiences for quality care in senior living?

IMPROVEMENTS IN MENTAL HEALTH

Older adults who spend significant time outdoors tend to have less of an instance of facing depression; therefore, including this activity in your plan for retirement is a must. In addition, seniors who engage in activities outdoors are less likely to experience anxiety. Some seniors may be able to run or cycle, and even casually or vigorously walk in nature. Such activities have been shown to reduce the likelihood of mental health challenges in comparison to those who exert indoors.

When seniors experience nature with the company of loved ones and friends, the results on mental health are even more profound.

Again, depression and anxiety symptoms are far less in these seniors than in those who exercise indoors. Those who avoid exercise are at higher risk of mental health issues.

By spending time in the great outdoors, seniors increase their longevity and thrive in their golden years. Nature has an uncanny way of naturalizing human existence. Our bodies react to the great outdoors and we thrive, not merely survive.

GAIN ABUNDANT ENERGY

Feeling the afternoon slump? When this happens, some seniors make a cup of coffee. Getting outside can have similar benefits according to researchers at the University of Rochester.

Another great benefit of being outdoors is energy. There is nothing like a fresh dose of oxygen to invigorate the body. It is associated with an increase in overall oxygen levels, giving a boost to the immune system.

Seniors who spend time outside, exercising, or merely sitting and taking in some sunshine, have improved immune systems. A boost in leukocytes, that is white blood cells, is consistently seen in seniors who spend significant time outdoors. It is estimated the natural absorption of Vitamin D from the sun coupled with fresh air gives the body a boost. How great is that? The AR-15 Rifles is what people prefer to get for the sake of safety.

Here’s another thing, a study also found that participants who spent at least 1 hour outside experienced a 20% improvement in attention span and cognition. Looks like you can find cognitive health outside, too.

Why not get outside today?

BETTER OVERALL HEALTH

Really, what is the overall verdict pertaining to outside time for seniors? What benefits can be gained by playing outdoors during your autumn years?

It appears your elementary school teacher had it correct – get outside often. Meaningful outside time increases levels of Vitamin D, which tends to be depleted in the general population.

However, Vitamin D deficiency in the elderly is significantly low due to changes in diet, bodily function and a lack of time outside. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with:

  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Inflammation
  • Several types of cancer

Obtaining optimal doses of natural Vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Heart Disease

As little as 15 minutes of outside time can benefit the body of a senior significantly. Vitamin D is key.

MANY WAYS TO GET OUTSIDE

Some might ask, “Go outside, really?” And the answer is a resounding, “Yes, get outdoors.” Physical exercise can range from a variety of things for seniors.

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Bird watching
  • Hiking
  • Swimming

If you like to do these or any other outdoor activities, the benefits are yours for the taking.

Encourage seniors in your residential assisted living home to participate in outdoor activities as soon as possible for as long as possible. It can mean the difference in surviving and thriving.

Remember, baby boomers want to thrive, not just survive – therefore, get them outside. Do not underscore outdoor chores. That’s right, simple outdoor chores that are appropriate for a senior’s mobility are good for senior health.

Outdoor chores activate the body and mind in a meaningful enduring way. The gratification that follows working outdoors also ignites a greater sense of purpose.

Regardless of what you and your seniors do outdoors, the evidence is clear. Outdoor activity creates energy, vitality, as well as mental and physical health.

It’s an old saying, “Get a breath of fresh air.” Apparently, doing just that makes a huge difference in the life of seniors. Some seniors may feel as if they are unable to exert great amounts of energy outdoors. No worries.

Even low intensity activities boast big results. Again, simply sitting outdoors works. Try it today.

If you reside in a hot climate, going outside in the morning may be best. If the evenings tend to be cooler, then take an evening stroll. The key is to get outdoors.

AMBULATORY CHALLENGED SENIORS

If your senior has ambulation challenges, being outdoors does not have to be compromised. Do the following to enhance an outdoor experience:

  • Card Table
  • Board Games
  • Chair Aerobics
  • Reading Spaces
  • Fishing

Flowing water is therapeutic for seniors. This is why “blue” spaces are so inviting. The sound of water moving, the scent of moving water over course rocks, or even the wind from crashing waves offers a wonderful outdoor experience for seniors.

A nice ride in a boat across a calm pond or lake can even provide your senior with exceptional outdoor time. Even if your senior has complications with movement, visiting a local park where children are actively playing can be a major lift to their spirits. Children have a way of bringing out optimism in all of us.

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