There are several physical and mental barriers that prevent elderly people from getting outside. Especially when they live in a nursing home. Depending on their abilities, even a short walk could take a lot of energy and might cause a risk of falling. This can make it a frightening prospect and many elderly people would rather stay where they feel safe. However, fresh air and a change of surroundings can do wonders for elderly people. It alleviates boredom and lifts their mood; it also helps things like sleep and chronic pain and encourages them to stay active.
Improving quality of life in nursing homes is something that we should always be striving towards. Elderly people deserve the best after a lifetime of giving to society. Furthermore, as we ourselves age we want to ensure that we have the best care.
There are many advantages to getting outside. Including:
- Makes them feel more positive.
- Improves memory.
- Alleviates boredom.
- Reduces pain.
- Strengthens the immune system.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Improves sleep.
- Vitamin D from the sun helps keep the heart and bones healthy.
If someone is resistant to going outside, then gentle encouragement could work. They do not need to overexert themselves to get outside. Here are some tips:
- Offer to sit them by an open window while they drink their morning tea or coffee. Add this to their daily routine. The fresh air will do them good and may make them want to go outside.
- Bring new plants into the garden with comfortable seating to make it somewhere they will want to sit.
- Consider plants that attract butterflies.
- Consider plants that smell nice, as good smells can bring back fond memories and help to relax people.
- Offer to bring them outside in a wheelchair so they don’t have to worry about walking.
- Offer to bring them outside with a friend.
- Run activities outside like gardening, craft making, reading etc.
- Have a large table outside which is communal.
- Have places outside where they can sit alone.
- Walk with them or take them in a wheelchair to the park or local shop.
- Run outdoor events and invite their families.
Remember, it is always important to give people a choice. Even if going outside is good for them, some may never want to do it. That’s ok too. Encourage residents outside but don’t force them to do something they don’t want to do.
If going outside is simply not an option because they are too ill, then consider some indoor plants, plenty of natural sunlight and open their window for a short amount of time each day. This will help to improve their mood.
If your loved one is in a nursing home, then staff may struggle to find time to go outside with them. Use your visits to get them outside, walk them out or sit with them in the garden. Your gentle encouragement could be the best way to get them out and about.
Quality of Life and Nature Go Hand in Hand
Nature can play a vital role in getting your elderly residents active and feeling good. Studies have shown that if elderly residents have regular access to outdoor spaces and nature then the health benefits alone can give them a better quality of life. Spending time in nature is absolutely key to enjoying old age and living life to the fullest whilst in nursing care. Some of the key benefits that heading outside and spending time in nature can have are:
Increased Physical Activity
We all want our elderly relatives to be with us for as long as possible. And studies have shown that those who are more active and get out and about have an improved quality of life and lead a happier, more content life. When an elderly resident has access to green, nature-filled spaces they’re more likely to take full advantage of their freedom to move around safely and enjoy time in the sun taking in the fresh air and admiring the flowers.
Walking is a simple physical activity that gets joints and muscles moving and blood pumping. All of which can reduce pain at night and other discomfort caused by a lack of mobility. As mentioned above, gardening is a wonderful physical activity that gets the elderly surrounded by nature, it helps them to continue to use their muscles and it can even lead to social interactions with fellow gardeners. More time outdoors can lead to more physical activity, social interactions and even a better diet if they grow their own fruits and vegetables.
A Mental Health Boost
Did you know that time spent within nature is beneficial for your mental health? Even just as little as twenty minutes a day can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing and overall contentment. Which makes time spent outdoors even more vital for the elderly. Time spent in nature is clinically proven to reduce stress levels and lower heart rates, create better moods and produce overall improved mental health. No one wants to be stuck inside the same four walls each day, which is why it’s crucial that we give elderly residents — especially the ones who may not be as mobile as they used to be – the opportunity to improve their cognitive health.
It Can Banish Loneliness
The idea of being lonely in your old age is a sad one. No one should have to spend their final years wishing they had someone to talk to. Isolation in old age can have a seriously detrimental impact on mental health and happiness. Which in turn can damage quality of life and make the elderly susceptible to illness and depression. This is where nature (again) comes in. An outdoor area that is easily accessed has the potential to open up endless social possibilities for the elderly in residential care. Spending time outdoors can be a real lifeline for those residents who may not have regular visitors or for those who need assistance getting around.