Ageing is a natural process where we go through physical, cognitive, social and familial losses and experience disabilities that leads towards assistance for activities of daily living. The physical well-being of older people has always received a lot of emphasis for this very reason. But the same amount of emphasis or importance has not been placed on their mental health which is very crucial to support physical health. Peaceful and happy ageing is only possible when there is a holistic balance in physical and mental well-being.
As Hans Christian Andersen famously said:
“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
The environment in which elderly people live plays a huge role in maintaining their mental as well as physical health.
Just imagine, a senior’s day-to-day life can be very mundane. Thanks to things like declining health and limited mobility, most seniors aren’t able to go out and explore nature like they once did. This leads to a senior feeling lonely and stuck in the same daily routine. Without the experience of getting outside, monotony continuous and can set an unfavourable influence on the seniors’ happiness. Luckily, simple things like the sound of flowing water or the sight of birds eating at a feeder can easily break up the daily routine and extend mental and spiritual relief for seniors. Hence it is essential to re-establish their connection with nature.
In addition to providing some freshness to everyday life, access to nature also encourages seniors to enhance their physical and mental activity levels, which, in turn, can contribute to averting conditions like dementia, cognitive decline, immobility, and many other lifestyle diseases. This, perhaps, is one of the greatest advantages of being close to nature for seniors. Simply sitting in a green space or listening to the sound of a stream encourages people to feel more alive, and for seniors who struggle with depression or feelings of loneliness, this could be an immeasurable reward.
Nature has great healing powers. Studies show that spending about 15 minutes of time each day in the sun is a perfect way for seniors to increase their vitamin D levels. And as we all know, Vitamin D is directly associated with an enhanced immune system and a more positive outlook. Being close to nature provides their brain with a break from usual multitasking and enables it to develop new memories and heal itself from over-extension. This contributes to greater attention levels and enhanced mental health.
There are so many ways through which we can address the nature-deficit for elders. As our population ages, it is imperative that we give easy access to nature for the senior members. Re-bonding with nature is a wonderful way for seniors to recover their physical health and mental wellbeing while combating some of the typical rigours of age.