Article category: Home Care, Senior Care, Eldercare, In-Home Care, Caregivers.

Senior Care Tip — Walks In Nature Can Improve Your Aging Mom’s Mental Health

If there is one change that you would probably like to see in your aging parents, it would most likely be seeing them smile more often. Smile is widely considered the outer expression of inner thoughts, feelings and therefore mental health. Here is an idea of how your senior parents could smile a little more often, and it has to do with being exposed to Mother Nature.

Then and Now

Our ancestors spent much of their time outside in green, natural spaces. Today, most of us live in cities, or in close proximity to cities. Many Elderly who live in suburbs rarely get exposed to lush and green natural environments. Recent studies have shown that city dwellers — or those who do not get sufficient exposure to Mother Nature — have higher risk of experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental problems compared to people living in rural areas.

A growing body of research has demonstrated that people living near nature seem to have lower incidence of psychological problems than urban dwellers who have little or no access to green spaces. Several studies have also found that people who stay indoors experience higher levels of stress hormones than those who regularly visit natural environments.

How does experiencing nature affect the brains and improve emotional health?

This question led Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Stanford University, to study the psychological effects of urban living.

Together with his colleagues at the university’s Emmett Interdisciplinary program, Mr. Bratman found that volunteers who briefly strolled through a lush, green space in the campus, were more attentive and seemed happier, compared to those who walked around heavy trafficked area deprived of natural resources.

Mr. Bratman and his colleagues decided to closely examine the neurological effects of getting exposed to nature on an individual’s tendency to brood (brood: verb — to think deeply about something that makes one unhappy). The researchers concluded that they would have a better knowledge on whether nature really changes people’s brain functioning if they could track brain activity before and after subjects were exposed to nature. Scans that track blood flow were utilized to check for brain activity in study subjects’ subgenual prefrontal cortex.

Study Findings Are Very Promising

When compared with non-city dwellers, the study has shown that brooding, also known as broken-record fretting, is disproportionately common among city dwellers, and can be a precursor to clinical depression.

The physical effects on the brain of spending time in nature revealed that the process of walking in the park may not only calm the mind, but it may also affect the mechanism of the brain which improves mental health.

Findings of the study strongly suggest that getting outside into the nature is an easy and almost immediate way of improving brain functioning and mood.

Next Step

Share this article with your aging parents. Discuss and debate the findings. We hope that the discussion will lead to mom and dad being willing to embrace Mother Nature more often. Daily walks in local park or a trail in a heavily forested area can truly be fantastically beneficial for their physical and emotional health.

Perhaps this could turn into whole family walks? Anytime we are trying to change a habit of an elderly person — especially a habit that has been ingrained for years — it helps to have a little emotional support and example from family members.

If you need some assistance with helping you care for an aging loved one, Abington Caregivers is standing by.

Call us when in need.

With ❤︎ for the Elderly…

Article topic: Home Care, Senior Care, Eldercare, In-Home Care, Caregivers.

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