Access to nature key for seniors’ health

Nature

One of the major keys to a long, healthy life may be as simple as getting out into nature once in a while. Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Vancouver, B.C., found in a recent study that seniors who have easy access to natural environments have a better quality of life and are more mentally and physically healthy.

Published in the journal Health and Place, the study focused on seniors living in Vancouver between the ages of 65 and 86. All of those surveyed were low-income, and some had a variety of chronic health conditions. The researchers found that the seniors who lived near what they called “green and blue spaces,” or areas with a lot of vegetation and still or running water, were in better health and felt less isolated than those who had less access to these spaces.

“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,” lead author Jessica Finlay of the University of Minnesota said in a statement. “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.”

Waterfront spaces were especially beneficial, allowing seniors to exercise without joint pain by swimming and doing water aerobics.

The researchers hope these findings will motivate urban planners to create cities with greater accessibility to nature for everyone, regardless of age and mobility level.

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