Taking a walk outdoors has long been associated with improving mood, creativity and sleep. Research into the area has proven the advice is more than an old wives' tale.
Spending time in nature has been shown to help relieve anxiety and stress, enhance attention span and increase memory recollection.
Continue reading to explore the benefits of the outdoors on cognitive health and simple ways seniors with memory impairments can safely enjoy time outdoors in nature.
Cognitive health is a term frequently used by doctors and caregivers who work in a memory care community such as Ellisville. While it's commonly used interchangeably with mental or brain health, cognitive health refers to a person's ability to make decisions, solve problems or focus on a task.
A person's memory or ability to recall their past or an important piece of information, such as a name or date, is also part of cognitive function.
Brain health, on the other hand, is a generalized term that can include motor and tactile functions, which is your ability to control how your body moves and your response to the feeling of pain or temperature.
As you encounter situations in your daily life, you often have to decide what to do with your time, what to eat or what clothes to wear. Cognitive health directly affects the ability to process these choices and decide upon a course of action.
Poor cognitive function can vastly impair split-second decision-making. Choosing what clothes to put on in the morning can be quite difficult, for example, if you have trouble remembering the current season and the appropriate attire for it.
Many seniors who struggle to complete daily tasks can benefit from the assistance of trained caregivers, such as our memory care team here in Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville.
Researchers have been exploring the connection between nature and good cognitive health for years and have discovered many benefits of spending time in nature on cognitive health.
One study regarding nature's impact on individuals' cognitive abilities showed a significant improvement in memory and attention span. Participants were tested before and after spending an hour outdoors in nature.
The results were compared to individuals who'd spent an hour in an urban setting. The individuals in the city environment showed no improvement, whereas those who spent time in green spaces showed a 20% increase in memory recall and concentration.
Chronic stress has been linked to myriad physical and mental health problems. Cortisol, the body's stress hormone, has been linked to sleep issues, headaches, depression and difficulties with memory and concentration.
Studies have shown that even a 20-minute trip outside into a green space could significantly lower cortisol levels. A variety of settings and times of day were explored, and the benefits were universal whether the participants relaxed in a park during the morning or on their patio in the evening.
Getting the proper amount of sleep is critical for healthy cognitive function. However, the aging process can often disrupt the circadian system, which is the body's natural daily rhythm of sleep and wakefulness.
Sleep studies have shown a strong connection between exposure to natural light and regulating the body's internal clock. Light exposure blocks the production of melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleep, helping you remain alert during the day so you can more readily fall asleep at night.
Wandering and disorientation can be issues for many individuals with severe memory issues. However, a secured yard or outdoor courtyard can let them explore at their leisure. This freedom can reduce anxiety levels and help encourage healthy physical activity.
There are many outdoor activities popular with seniors that are easy to do in a small outdoor space. Before beginning any change in an older adult's routine, consult with their medical professionals to determine the best way to customize the activity to suit their individual abilities and health needs.
Walking is highly beneficial to your health, even if it's only completed in small increments each day. By creating a circular walking trail in an enclosed garden, you can promote a natural feel to your path that lets you keep moving forward without having to stop abruptly and change directions.
Birdwatching is a beloved activity enjoyed by roughly 46 million Americans. It can be enjoyed sitting in a comfortable patio chair overlooking a backyard bird feeder, which even individuals with limited mobility can help fill and clean.
Seniors can also walk along trails looking for birds during outings in parks around Ellisville with their loved ones. In waterfront parks, there are often benches to rest on and watch the ducks and geese.
Gardening is perhaps one of the most customizable outdoor hobbies. Raised beds and containers let individuals participate without kneeling or while sitting in a wheelchair, and there's a wide variety of senior-friendly tools on the market to help with watering, weeding and pruning.
The grown plants are also very attractive, whether they're vegetables for eating or flowers to use in lovely bouquets to bring a touch of nature inside your senior living apartment.
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