Nature can play a positive role in our lives at every age. For older adults or people with memory loss, the benefits can be even more pronounced. Interacting with nature can provide a sense of connectedness and peace. The Japanese call immersing in nature shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing.
While this practice has been around for many years in Japan, it’s only in recent years that the term has become more widely known in this country. Forest bathing refers to spending time engaging all of one’s senses with nature. Smelling the air. Listening to the sounds of birds or water or even the rustling of the trees. The idea is just to be present with whatever experiences you encounter.
When you make time to connect with nature, you’ll likely find your mental and physical well-being improve in many ways:
Achieve a sense of peace: When you head outdoors or even engage in nature-related activities indoors, you’ll likely find yourself feeling more peaceful. It is helpful for clearing and centering the mind.
Receive a boost of vitamin D: In moderation, the sun’s rays allow the body to soak up vitamin D. That’s important because older adults tend to be at higher risk for a vitamin D deficiency. This happens for a variety of reasons ranging from a poor diet to a medication side effect.
Lower the risk of depression: Communing with nature also gives the spirit a boost, helping to prevent depression and anxiety. People with a memory impairment, who may struggle with sadness and feelings of loss, often experience joy when engaging with nature.
If you aren’t sure how to help a senior loved one spend more time with nature, we have some ideas we hope you’ll find useful.
Activities to Engage Older Adults with Nature
Birdwatching: This year-round activity can be as simple or as detailed as you choose. Some memory care communities have aviaries so residents can watch and enjoy their feathered friends up close. But you can also bird watch from a window, a patio, or your local park. It’s a rewarding and inexpensive hobby to pursue. Birding for Beginners from the National Park Service is a good resource for getting started.
Star gazing: Like birding, this is a hobby that can be enjoyed any month of the year. While it’s usually best to get started outdoors, older adults can star gaze from inside their car or from a window or sun porch. You won’t even need a telescope to begin. A pair of binoculars will suffice. Astronomy for Beginners: How to Get Started in Backyard Astronomy is a good resource to review. You might be fortunate enough to have a planetarium at a nearby college or university. Most offer workshops and classes that are open to the public.
Nature hikes: No matter where you live or what the season, enjoying a stroll through nature is likely possible. Many parks have accessible trails that make it easier for people with mobility challenges to navigate. Don’t forget to take your cell phone or a camera to document the birds and fauna you spot along the way.
Gardening: Indoors or out, gardening is another hobby that helps people feel connected to nature. Older adults can create container gardens on a porch or patio or in raised flower beds. Windowsill herb gardens placed in a sunny window allow people to nurture plants even in the middle of winter. Houseplants are another option. Tending to them can soothe the soul. One additional idea to consider is winter sowing. You plant seeds during the cold months and then transplant them in the spring.
Wellness at Presbyterian Senior Living (PSL) Communities
At PSL communities, you will find a culture that encourages residents to live each day to the fullest. Through our Thrive Wellness program, we nurture each of the dimensions of wellness. Led by residents and supported by staff, the program is integrated across the entire organization. We invite you to visit a local PSL community to learn more.
About Presbyterian Senior Living
PSL is a mission-driven organization that lives our values of integrity, mutual respect, creative curiosity, and connectedness. Building on a legacy of 96 years, we provide residential and care services to more than 6,000 seniors in 27 locations across the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.