As we get older, we tend to spend less and less time outside. Especially in the Northern U.S., outdoor conditions can be a challenge for seniors. But the outdoors offers great rewards for those who can safely venture out, especially for mental health. If you’re concerned about your parent’s mental health, getting outdoors is a good place to start.
Time in the sun allows our body to make Vitamin D. It is essential for physical health of course, but few realize that it also helps to fight depression. According to Harvard Health time outside has been consistently shown to reduce depression even beyond its Vitamin D benefits.
Some of the reduction of depression risks and symptoms are generated by being active outdoors – even walking counts. Yet, simply being outdoors without exercising still fights depression according to Science Daily. That’s good news for elders with mobility issues who are unable to be as active as they’d like.
Spending time outdoors seems to help us regulate our emotions. Researchers found that after going for a walk outdoors near nature, their subjects had fewer negative thoughts, as measured by brain activity.
Stanford explains that the researchers compared these results to the brain activity of those who walked by a road, and found that they had more negative emotions than those who walked near nature.
Religious or spiritual connections tend to have a powerful impact on many seniors. Nature helps many religious people feel better connected with their beliefs and the peace those beliefs provide, according to California Outdoor Recreation Planning. This research has also demonstrated that time in nature helps people deal with serious life events, like death, which also have people turn towards their beliefs for comfort.
Being in the outdoors strengthens an elder’s identity and boosts their general life satisfaction by providing a whole host of other emotional and mental benefits. Time outdoors gives elders something to look forward to, provides relief from insomnia, reduces loneliness, lowers anxiety levels, and even boosts memory.
According to Nature Sacred, the longer your parent can spend outside the more pronounced many of these benefits will become. While lengthy exercise outside is just not an option for many, there are ways to incorporate the outdoors into many areas of your parent’s life.
Access to the Outdoors
There are several ways to make the outdoors easier for elders to access. They can sit or stroll in well-manicured gardens that have paved or smooth pathways. Ensure that the path ways are well-iced during the winter and well-lit in the evening.
If your parent still can’t get outside as much as they like, there are ways to bring the outdoors to them. Even sitting next to a window with natural views has been shown to reduce stress. Consider moving your parent to a room with natural light and a nature-inspired view. Or, put house plants in their room. If gardening might interest your parent you can even place planters in their room which they can tend to.
Even a small amount of nature or time outdoors can help boost your parent’s mental health. If you’re looking for other strategies, schedule a call with one of the dedicated Aging Life Care Managers™ in our network. Our team of professionals have years of experience guiding elders and their families to gain a better quality of life.