Spending time outdoors is good for everyone, and for seniors especially the benefits can help them stay healthier both physically and mentally. Whether it’s to enjoy the summer sunshine or relieve cabin fever in the winter, getting outdoors offers so many ways to improve their quality of life and really enjoy retirement. Take a look at some of the benefits of being outdoors for older adults.
One of the best benefits of being outdoors for older adults is sunshine — a basic requirement for life on our planet. Unlike plants and animals, humans often don’t spend enough time in the sunshine and may suffer for it. According to the medicalnewstoday.com article, “What to know about the health benefits of sunlight,” living without sunshine can have a variety of physical and mental impacts that many aren’t even aware of.
For starters, we need sunshine to enable our bodies to make vitamin D3 which is essential for healthy bones and immune systems, as well as to process calcium and reduce inflammation. Sunshine may also help protect against type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and different cancers including colon, breast, and prostate, and is known to help in the production of pain-killing hormones called beta-endorphins. In addition, one study also found sunlight (independent of vitamin D) may also help lower blood pressure — just one more of the benefits of getting outdoors for older adults.
One ‘momism’ everyone has heard is “get outdoors and get some fresh air,” but now we know moms weren’t just trying to get rid of us and that fresh air really is good for us. Living indoors subjects us to some unhealthy airborne substances and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, poor indoor air quality in homes, businesses and other buildings can impact our health short- and long-term.
For example, sources of fuel combustion like gas stoves and fireplaces, products used for cleaning, personal care and hobbies, new flooring and carpeting, air fresheners, and some pressed wood products can also give off a variety of pollutants like volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. In addition, naturally occurring radon can cause cancer, as can asbestos fibers from old insulation. Some of these emissions may cause immediate health impacts like headaches or coughs while others can result in conditions that don’t show up for years or even decades.
So, one of the benefits of being outdoors for older adults is that unlike indoor air, outdoor air is not generally confined or recirculated so air pollutants outdoors are often more diluted. Of course, getting outdoors in areas far away from traffic, factories, power plants, and other pollutant generators is the best option but even a local park can offer cleaner air. According to the nrpa.org article, “Parks as a Solution to Climate Change,” city parks provide fresh air because trees are great air cleaners and urban trees are responsible for removing air pollutants and sequestering carbon dioxide in amounts equivalent to removing 19 million cars from the road for one year.
Another of the benefits of getting outdoors for older adults is the soothing effect of Mother Nature. Research noted in the alumni.cornell.edu article, “Nature Rx: the many benefits of time outdoors,” found that spending time in nature in just about any context can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve moods, lower stress levels, and reduce anxiety and depression. Nature can also help us improve concentration, control pain and even recover faster from injuries. So, whether sitting on the patio birdwatching, strolling in a park or hiking through the wilderness, nature is a wonder not only for her beauty but for her wellness benefits as well.
Needless to say, being outdoors and getting exercise allows us to stay in shape and healthy. For those who want to maximize the benefits of being outdoors for older adults there’s walking, running, biking, playing sports, or just gardening, but another is volunteering.
Volunteering for outdoor positions like cleaning up parks, removing invasive plant species, helping plant trees, or joining a group that takes kids camping all offer great ways to not only get outdoors, but to give back. For a look at some of the possibilities try volunteer.gov, The Nature Conservancy, runwildmychild.com, or contact local or state park agencies.
Winter, summer, spring and fall all offer unique opportunities to get out and enjoy the bounties of the natural world. At Thrive Senior Living we make it easy to reap the benefits of being outdoors for older adults who want to stay healthy and independent. Download our “Just the Facts: Assisted Living” guide and contact us today!