New research shows that green and “blue” spaces — environments with running or still water — are especially beneficial for healthy aging in seniors.
“We zoomed in to everyday life for seniors between the ages of 65 and 86,” said lead author Jessica Finlay, a doctoral candidate in geography and gerontology at the University of Minnesota. “We discovered how a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health.
“Accessibility to everyday green and blue spaces encourages seniors to simply get out the door. This, in turn, motivates them to be active physically, spiritually, and socially, which can offset chronic illness, disability, and isolation.”
For the study, researchers interviewed adults between the ages of 65 and 86 who lived in Vancouver, B.C. All the study participants were considered low-income, and experienced a range of chronic conditions and experiences of health, according to the researchers.
Published in the journal Health and Place, the study found that natural environments enable older adults to create a daily structure in retirement, as well as provide opportunities for diverse activities outside the home.
This is important to quality of life by decreasing boredom, isolation, and loneliness, as well as boosting one’s sense of purpose and accomplishment, according to the researcher.
Blue space, in particular, provides opportunities for non-weight bearing physical activity and physiotherapy, such as wading, water walking, and swimming, she said. Waterfront areas are comforting sites for spiritual connectedness with deceased loved ones, and relaxing places to escape the strains of later life, she added.
“While our research may seem intuitive, it creates conversations on how to build communities that serve people across their entire lifetime,” Finlay said. “We don’t just need a playground for children, we also need sheltered benches for the grandparents to watch them.”
She added she hopes the research will help urban planners and developers build communities that “span a lifetime.”
Source: University of Minnesota