The sun is shining today, and that alone puts me in a good mood. I always feel better when there are buds on the trees and a promise of warmer days ahead. The same is true for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The need to go outside and connect with the earth’s cycles doesn’t disappear with the disease.
I think we as humans love nature because it is good for us. There are many well-documented health benefits attributed to regularly interacting with nature. A study by the University of Michigan showed that nature walks can significantly lower depression and perceived stress and enhance mental well-being.
The same is true as we age. This research published in the Journal of Aging Health shows that getting outside on a daily basis may help elders stay healthy and functioning longer. In fact, participants in the study who spent time outdoors every day at age 70 showed fewer complaints of aching bones or sleep problems, among other health-related problems, at age 77 than those who did not head outside each day.
Nature therapy, or eco therapy as it’s sometimes called, is becoming more recognized as an important ingredient in overall wellness for all of us, but especially with those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. But sadly as dementia progresses, people living with the disease have limited opportunities to get outside and interact with nature. Creating opportunities for people living with dementia to continue this important connection is a part of providing good dementia care.
Connecting to nature or the outdoors takes different meaning for different people. For a former farmer, spending time outdoors might have occupational and purposeful importance as well as fulfilling a longstanding normal daily routine. A former jogger might enjoy moving around outside for a different reason.