We all know that having contact with nature can be beneficial for health and wellbeing, but many older people face barriers when getting outdoors. Our Wellbeing and Activity Coordinators have developed a range of meaningful activities for residents, to help encourage people to get outdoors. They have also created ways to bring the outdoors in to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to connect with nature.
For those living with dementia, it is especially important to connect with nature, it can help people to feel connected to the seasons and orientated in time and place. This has a calming effect, reducing confusion and frustration. The benefits of the outdoors are well established, but scientists are still unsure exactly why this is. One theory proposes that love for nature and the ability to thrive in a natural environment are inherent to humans, dictate by evolutionary drives and instincts. Studies have shown that for older adults, exposure to nature helps improve sleep patterns and reduces anxiety and improves cognitive functioning. Simply put, spending time in nature helps people to feel healthier and happier.
Many care home residents enjoy spending time looking for wildlife from the comfort of their room. For residents who live in care homes in rural areas, it’s never long before they see some form of wildlife, from garden birds to rabbits, foxes, pheasants and even deer in the fields around their home. Those living in urban areas may have to be a little more patient, but with the help of bird feeders and food to attract wildlife, it’s not long before most people will spot a squirrel, bird or fox.
Residents in The Grove Care Home near Grimsby have enjoyed making bird feeders for their gardens and some have even turned their hand to woodworking and built their own bird boxes. At St John’s Care Home in Spalding, residents have a monthly bird spotting club and have enjoyed taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. They put birdseed outside to entice the birds and managed to see six pigeons, 2 crows, 3 doves, 1 male blackbird, 1 female blackbird and a seagull! They sent off their data to the RSPB for inclusion in their annual survey.
Wildlife also gives great inspiration for drawings, paintings, collages and much more. Residents at Rose Lodge Care Home have enjoyed making a collage from leaves, whilst at Beech Lodge they spent an afternoon making pressed-flower decorations for their home. Nature has also inspired people to get writing too, with residents enjoying writing poems and stories or listening to them being read out. This has provided some great talking points with people enjoying reminiscing about the countryside where they grew up, days out or holidays.
Being outside and sharing activities outdoors brings immediate benefits for people living with dementia. A simple walk around the garden for ten minutes is enough to provide mental stimulation and exposure to Vitamin-D. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our body clock and helps us to sleep at night. The great outdoors is a multi-sensory environment and just a little time outdoors can provide a great boost for wellbeing. All of our Care Homes at Country Court have outside space, with the large majority enjoying extensive garden space. These spaces are hugely beneficial for our residents and a key part in them getting the most out of life in our homes.