The benefits of nature for care homes

care home

The wellbeing benefits of nature have been well documented. Studies have shown that nature has a whole host of physical and mental benefits. It can reduce stress and anxiety, boost your mood, help you sleep better and even improve your confidence. With so many physical and mental benefits, many healthcare professionals have applied nature to a care home setting so that residents can feel the therapeutic benefits.

What are the benefits of nature for care home residents?

During the pandemic, care homes were some of the hardest hit. Residents were affected in huge numbers, in a variety of ways, including restrictions to visitor numbers, resident illness and even resident mortality. In particular, those with dementia suffered. After so many restrictions and so much confusion, there were concerns about the longer term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on care homes. Finding a way to improve the quality of life for those in care homes, therefore, is more paramount than ever before.

Here are some of the ways that nature can benefit care home residents:  

Dementia care

Many people can recall fond memories of spending time in nature. The sights, sounds and smells can help us recall cherished moments that we may have otherwise forgotten. For people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, being in nature can have amazing benefits for recall, cognition and overall wellbeing. Nature has been shown to strengthen neural pathways, keep the brain stimulated and even allow people to create new connections. Research has even shown that meaningful outdoor activity can slow down the progression of the symptoms of dementia.  

Improved sleep

A study conducted at the University of Illinois in the USA has shown that when older people have access to natural views, such as a park or trees, they usually experience better sleep. The results of this study suggest a good incentive for residential homes and retirement communities to design buildings with more lighting and dedicated garden spaces. Not only will this encourage outdoor activity, which will help with improved sleep, but exposure to natural light will help regulate the circadian rhythm. Regulating the circadian rhythm, or body clock, will help the older generation feel more alert during the day, and get a better sleep during the night.

Reduces anxiety and depression

Nature has been shown to decrease the risk of depression and anxiety in older people. Studies have shown that activities based in nature can increase levels of happiness in older adults. It can also improve feelings of overall wellbeing, and even improve sleep. Being in nature has also been shown to reduce additional negative feelings in older people, such as fear, anxiety and anger.

Strengthens immune systems and recovery

A famed 1984 study showed that patients who had a view of nature in a hospital environment were able to recover quicker. As recently as two years ago, a study was conducted to find out how the immune system of older people was affected by six months of horticultural therapy. The study showed a reduction in T-cell exhaustion and inflammation, which should help reduce the risk of infection, inflammatory diseases and even cancer.

How can nature be introduced in care homes

There are a variety of ways nature can be introduced in care homes, but the challenge is in making nature accessible to all residents regardless of mobility or cognition. If taking a walk proves too difficult, for example, care homes can introduce houseplants into the environment, or even interactive devices that have nature-based games. Here are just a few ways nature can be introduced to care home residents:

Sensory gardens

Creating a simple garden designed with the senses in mind can help older people reconnect with memories, reduce stress, improve wellbeing and even promote independence. Creating a sensory garden is all about focussing on senses. By choosing eye-catching plants, or fragrant plants, for example, you’re helping to stimulate sight and smell. Since smell is linked to memory, dementia patients can benefit from access to highly fragrant plants such as lavender and rosemary.

Therapeutic horticulture

Therapeutic horticulture goes one step further than providing a sensory garden. Instead, this type of therapy involves gardening and using gardening style activities to improve physical and mental health. Social and therapeutic horticulture can be undertaken regardless of age or ability. It’s a great way to help people mix socially, learn skills, feel more independent and gain the beneficial effects of being surrounded by nature.

Interactive games

There are many examples of care homes using interactive games to help engage care home residents. Memory games can help people who are struggling with dementia, interactive games involving light projection can help to boost happiness, and games involving numerous players can help people engage with each other. If the interactive games are nature based, care home residents can feel all the benefits of interactive technology with the added benefits of nature.

Digital windows

Perhaps the most inclusive way to bring the benefits of nature to care home residents is through the power of digital windows and sky ceilings. This technology can replicate the look and feel of real windows, with views of stunning natural landscapes, in any room and on a variety of surfaces. Looking at scenic nature through the power of digital windows and sky ceilings has been recognised as offering the same benefits as stepping into a natural environment. They’re also incredibly accessible, offering benefits for those who have lower mobility or even bed bound patients.

Are you looking for a completely accessible way to improve the health and wellbeing for your care home residents? Contact the team at Sky Inside for a bespoke consultation.