Time in nature can be a luxury, especially if you live in a big city. Up until when COVID-19 emerged, access to walking trails and mountain views may not have been a top priority for people browsing retirement homes for themselves or loved ones. But research from the University of Minnesota suggests green and “blue” spaces (environments with running or still water), could be beneficial for healthy aging in seniors. Nature time is not only enjoyable; it is restorative and more desirable than ever.
How Nature Time Promotes Senior Health
Many of us can relate to experiencing a positive shift in mood after spending time outside or around nature, but what Jessica Finlay, head author of the U of Minnesota study, discovered through interviewing participants aged 65 – 86 years old, is that natural environments also connect older adults to daily routines and create opportunities for multi-generational social interactions and a variety of activities. “Blue” and green spaces encourage older adults to get out the door, which in turn cultivates a range of benefits to their wellbeing.
When you can look out the window and see the Three Sister Mountains, that in itself is motivation to explore what’s on the other side of the glass.
Once outdoors, activities such as gardening or people-watching in a park can encourage conversations and lead to spontaneous interactions.
By motivating movement and interaction, nature can improve the health of seniors by:
- Improved mental health, by decreasing boredom, loneliness, and isolation.
- Boosting sense of purpose and accomplishment.
- Promoting opportunities for physical activities, such as swimming and walking, which reduces physical pains and boosts overall health.
And, very importantly: it can help older adults sleep better.
In a study conducted by the University of Illinois, researchers found that men and persons aged 65 and over who have access to natural surroundings report sleeping better. The cause and effect is attributed in part to the physical activity that is encouraged by spending time in nature, which in turn promotes a deeper night’s rest.
Inadequate sleep, according to University of Illinois professor Diana Grigsby-Touissant, “is associated with declines in mental and physical health, reduced cognitive function, and increased obesity”.
Time in nature builds resilience in older adults, at a time in their lives when stressors such as physical impediments, loss of loved ones, and anxiety about the future can loom large. And while retirement living in a large city can provide some opportunity for engaging with nature, there are often obstacles such as stairs, busy roadways, or unfeasible distance to parks or paths, which can discourage older people from getting outside.
Ways For Seniors To Enjoy Nature
There are many ways to enjoy nature without having to scale a mountain or strap on skis. Connecting with the outdoors can be as easy as:
- Listening to the sound of a spring-fed creek.
- Sitting on a park bench on a sunny day.
- Walking along a trail near home.
- Admiring the view of snow-capped mountain peaks.
- Group activities, such as birdwatching or guided snowshoeing.
Green and “Blue” Spaces in Canmore
If you are looking at retirement homes near Calgary but want to prioritize natural surroundings, consider Origin at Spring Creek in Canmore. The community at Origin is designed to provide easy access to the outdoors, so that even those with limited mobility can make the most of the scenic and invigorating landscape. Residents enjoy walks along safe and well-kept trails, group hikes and snowshoeing, swimming lessons in our aqua-sized salt water pool, and plenty of opportunities to sit and admire the two spring-fed creeks that run through the heart of Spring Creek Mountain Village.