Now that spring has finally sprung and we’re seeing sunnier days and warmer temperatures, many of us will be spending much more time in the great outdoors. The health benefits of spending time outside are well documented and the benefits of sunlight and fresh air, amongst others, are equally as important to residents’ welfare and mental health. With the past year’s events throwing the country’s mental health into the spotlight, there are some simple ways that we can help to ensure that our care home residents are receiving the benefits of outside space. In this blog we’ll explain the health benefits of being outside, as well as tips for encouraging residents into your garden and how to create an inviting and tranquil space.
What are the health benefits of spending time outside?
- Mental health – nature and being outdoors has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety as well as a general improvement in mood and outlook.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is said to affect 3 in 100 people at some point in their life. SAD is typically most common in the winter months when we experience less hours of daylight, therefore spending time in as much natural daylight as possible all year round can go some way to alleviating the depression that is present with SAD.
- Increasing activity and exercise has more than solely physical benefits. The serotonin produced when we exercise has a positive impact on our mood, as well as the general boost in self-esteem. Going for a short walk outside can improve self-esteem and provide a welcome break from what can often be a day sitting in a chair inside.
- Some studies show that being outside can help people to heal faster and require a reduction in medication. Of course, this will not apply to everyone and any reduction in medication should be carefully considered. However, spending time outside and the improvement on mental health will help residents to feel positive about any ailments currently affecting them physically.
- Our natural circadian rhythm plays a huge role in our sleep patterns. Spending time outside and the changing light levels throughout the day can help to produce a natural sleep pattern and help those that suffer from sleep withdrawal to have a more restful night.
How can we encourage residents to spend more time outside?
- When we think of encouraging residents to spend time outside we must think of the individual, their likes and dislikes and what they would like to do with their day. For those that enjoy spending time outside and could benefit from being in nature more, there are good ways to encourage them outside:
- In the warmer months group activities could be held outside. If you have a nice set of outdoor furniture, then arts and crafts and activities involving the garden could be held outside. Creating bouquets from the flowers in the garden is a great way to encourage creativity and interaction with nature. Alternatively, think about moving any group exercise classes outdoors to double up on the health benefits.
- Dining al fresco – we all love a great BBQ and in the summer many of us will seize any opportunity to eat outdoors. Having meals, picnics and BBQs outdoors is a guaranteed way to get residents into nature.
- Encourage visitors to sit outside with the residents and have a chat outside. Many homes have adopted this policy over the past year but, given the health benefits, this is something that should be encouraged over the warmer months.
- A short walk or a chat outside with a cup of tea can be a great way to start the day. Carers who have a particular bond with a resident could accompany residents around the garden and soak up the vitamin D.
How can you create an inviting and tranquil outside space?
- Many residents will have previously had their own gardens and you will often find residents who are ‘green fingered’. Creating a veggie patch or a space in which they can do some gardening will boost self-esteem, get them outside and help create a lovely garden for everyone to enjoy.
- Fountains and ponds – including a water feature in your outside space will encourage birds, insects, and wildlife to visit as well as providing a tranquil background noise. For the nature lovers, sitting outside with a cup of tea and watching the birds is great fun and will prompt them to share stories and memories.
- When planting your garden be sure to include plants that are evergreen as well as plants that flower throughout different times of the year. It is much easier to encourage residents outside if there are points of interest.
- Regular seating areas – include lots of areas of seating to encourage residents to take a walk between different areas of the garden. It’s important to include both social spaces where groups can gather, as well as more secluded solo areas of seating, such as benches, for those who would like some space on their own or with a companion.