The Benefits of Nature and the Outdoors for Seniors

Older couple enjoying the benefits of the outdoors

Spring’s here in Redding, CT, and it’s the perfect time to get outside. Getting outdoors is a great way to relax and soak in peace from the natural beauty that surrounds us. Best of all, there are real benefits to enjoying the outdoors, especially for seniors.

Research conducted by graduate students at the University of Minnesota proved that outdoor spaces have the potential to improve the health and well-being of seniors. According to the research, seniors who spend ample time in blue and green outdoor areas, such as parks or near ponds, enjoy increased feelings of connectedness and renewal.

Here are some of the health benefits of being outdoors for seniors.

Improves mental health

Seniors who spend time outdoors may experience less depression and anxiety. Individuals who run, bike or walk in natural settings have a reduced risk of mental health problems compared to people who do their exercise inside. The relaxation that nature provides can improve mood and increase overall feelings of happiness.

Helps eliminate fatigue

We’ve all encountered that feeling when your brain can’t quite get up to speed. Researchers call that “mental fatigue.”

One thing that can help get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments, which include the great outdoors. Natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, which is one of the surest ways to experience a mental boost. One study found that people’s mental energy bounced back just looking at pictures of nature, while pictures of city scenes had no effect.

Enhances relationships and diminishes sense of isolation

Getting outdoors promotes social interaction, whether through meeting new people or spending time with friends and loved ones. Natural environments are comforting sites for spiritual connectedness and for escaping the strains common in later life, such as boredom, isolation and loneliness. In addition, spending time in natural places increases one’s sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Lower overall risk of early death

According to one study, nearby green space seems to be especially important for the health of residents in urban environments.

In a follow-up investigation, the same research team found that a wide variety of diseases were less prevalent among people who lived in close proximity to green space. And a 2016 paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives found a similar connection: greater exposure to greenness was associated with a 12% lower mortality rate. The biggest improvements were related to a reduced risk of death from cancer, lung disease and kidney disease.

May help fight depression and anxiety

Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in nature — especially when that’s combined with exercise. A study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods. Another found that outdoor walks could be “useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments” for major depressive disorder.

Many options to get outside

You don’t have to take a challenging hike to get the health benefits of being outdoors. There are countless ways to encourage seniors to get active and spend time outside. Here are a few easy ways to get started.

Birdwatching

Birdwatching is one of the best outdoor activities for seniors who want to connect with nature.
Many seniors find it to be a surprisingly rewarding activity. It doesn’t take long for a beginner to realize what a soothing, therapeutic experience birdwatching can be.

If you live in the Redding area, you have access to a wide variety of native and migrating birds. Read our blog post with tips on spotting some of the more than 50 distinct bird species that have been sighted on and around the Meadow Ridge campus.

Picnics

Picnicking is the quintessential outdoor activity. Whether you’re enjoying a meal for two in the backyard or meeting with friends for a feast in the park, a picnic is the perfect way to get an elderly loved one outside into the fresh air.

Fruit Picking

Picking your own fruit — whether apples, strawberries, raspberries or another variety — offers the benefits of outdoor exercise and stocking up on healthy foods. If you live in Fairfield County, here’s a list of pick-your-own fruit farms.

Gardening

This is one of the most popular outdoor activities for older adults. It’s also one of the best ways for seniors to stay active. While some people don’t really think of gardening as exercise, it is an excellent way for seniors to maintain strength and make light aerobic activity a part of daily life.

Walks

Going out for a walk can be a great way to take in the world, get some fresh air, and step away from stress and distractions. It’s also one of the most recommended forms of light exercise by health professionals.

No matter how you choose to do it, getting outdoors has many health benefits in store for you. Learn more about how Meadow Ridge supports healthy living and wellness in every dimension here.