Why Senior Living Facilities Need Outdoor Spaces

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Outdoor spaces have healing magic and help you relax, making them a great addition to your senior living community. People can recharge by simply having freshly brewed tea in a garden or going for a walk with friends. Lawns, parks, trees and flowers beautify the facility and improve your residents’ quality of life, and may encourage other older adults to live there.

Consider the various benefits of outdoor spaces for seniors that will make your facility a great place to call home.  

1. Improved Physical Health and Well-Being

You won’t hear a doctor prescribe a senior to hug a tree, walk on the shore barefoot or soak in salty water — but they recommend moving the body and doing it outside as much as possible. That’s because being close to nature has merits that encompass overall health.

Being outdoors boosts physical health. People who spend more time out of their rooms enjoy natural light, breathe fresher air and are inspired to move.

Promotes Mobility

Social activities may decrease as people age. Some may slip into a sedentary lifestyle and withdraw from their family members and friends. Walking at a park, having a picnic or spending quiet moments in any green space accessible from their homes can inspire mobility and get them out of an unhealthy, inactive lifestyle and isolation.

Boosts Vitamin D

Vitamin D or calciferol, together with calcium, protects bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis in older people. The recommended daily value for seniors aged 51-70 is 15 micrograms, and sunlight is one of the best sources. 

Providing a space where residents are closer to plants and trees — such as installing outdoor seating in the middle of a garden — lets them capture those rays and activate vitamin D production within their bodies.

Encourages Physical Activity

Outdoor spaces provide everything from a change of scenery to a lung cleanse to inspiring movement. While an indoor gym is great, residents will surely find it more enjoyable to exercise outside because of fresher air and stunning views. Expand the outdoor areas in your facility to encourage them to pursue an active lifestyle. You can even consider offering tai chi or yoga classes or setting up an area for lawn games to promote exercise and interaction.

2. Mental Health and Cognitive Function

You’ll be surprised to know that spending more time outdoors can sharpen residents’ mental abilities and help them become self-sufficient. Forgetfulness is a common worry among older individuals, and this can worsen as they age. Natural environments can help delay memory loss and protect the brain. Here are some other impressive benefits of outdoor spaces for seniors.

Increases Memory and Brain Function

One study found that middle-aged women living in residential areas with expansive green spaces think faster, pay better attention and have higher overall cognitive function. Their brains were 1.2 years younger than participants without them. Experts are exploring natural environments that include parks, gardens, grass, trees and flowers to enhance brain health. You should definitely have them in your senior living facility.

Lowers Anxiety and Stress

Nature has restorative power that can increase seniors’ quality of life. One comprehensive review found that urban green spaces alleviate anxiety and stress and improve older adults’ moods and concentration. In addition, the outdoors benefits their subjective well-being and social health. The next time older residents want a mood booster, they’ll know where to go — it’s right outside their apartment door.

Reduces Loneliness

Roughly 28% of Americans aged 60 or older live alone. Loneliness is a prevalent problem among older people, often leading to a host of other mental health concerns and a decline in well-being. 

Fortunately, going outdoors can help remedy this. One study discovered that a 10% increase in urban greening within 1.6 kilometers of participants’ homes was linked with a lower cumulative incidence of loneliness. This proves green spaces are healing and helpful. 

Encourages Social Engagement and Community Building

Senior living facilities should add more natural environments because the benefits of outdoor spaces for seniors can boost social health and increase happiness. People who are happy with their living arrangements and surroundings will be more likely to refer your service and allow you to help more people. 

3. Facilitate Social Interactions

The garden area serves as a common ground for interactions among independent and assisted living residents. Many enjoy eating lunch in this area while enjoying a conversation with their neighbors. Providing a space to mingle allows them to utilize their social skills, meet other residents and make friends, reducing feelings of isolation. 

Promotes a Sense of Belonging

Many people enjoy plants, and community gardens can satisfy their passion. They elevate emotional wellness, provide a source of fresh produce and promote a sense of belonging. Seniors with meaningful connections through shared interests thrive and enjoy a better quality of life. 

Ignites Their Sense of Purpose

The Japanese have a fundamental concept called ikigai that is said to be the secret to the high number of centenarians in their country. This word translates to life purpose. How does this relate to having outdoor spaces? 

Many seniors enjoy working with soil — it’s a meaningful activity that can ignite their sense of purpose and consequently improve their health. 

One study found that people with a higher sense of purpose are 24% and 33% less likely to become physically inactive and develop sleep problems, respectively. It can contribute to a longer life span. Businesswise, positive feedback from happy residents and their families can improve your reputation and favorably impact your bottom line. 

Outdoor Space Can Elevate Quality of Life

The benefits of outdoor spaces for seniors are countless. Adding them to your facility can significantly improve your residents’ health. This improvement shows others your commitment to improving the lives of the older population and helping them thrive independently.

Quality of life is essential for people in their golden years. Although there are many ways to achieve it — like offering engaging activities — providing a safe, natural environment is one of the best.

  • Beth Rush

    Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, a health and wellness brand. She covers topics like sustainable agriculture and plant-based recipes. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!

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