There is a term coined by journalist Richard Louv that describes a feeling that many of us have experienced. The term is “Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Now on the surface this term may seem like a bit of play on words and a bit of a stretch, but separation from nature has a real, tangible effect on our mental health and our overall happiness. The smell of freshly cut grass in the summer, pine trees covered in snow in the winter, landscapes, creatures and critters… all these things can bring joy and happiness, especially for elders who are not as mobile as they used to be.
As people age into elderhood their lifestyle and their health changes. Their need for more involved healthcare professionals, more hands-on assistance with the daily tasks of living, and increased supervision and ‘checking-in’ can often take a toll on the mental state and happiness of an elder person. Especially for elder persons with more serious health conditions, the long hours and days spent in healthcare facilities can be mind-numbing and emotionally draining. Hours spent in waiting rooms painted a dull beige, TV droning in the background. Or the move to assisted living, where the facilities may not have been designed with the most enticing landscaping. All can have a real, tangible effect on long-term prognosis for elders.
However, many newer assisted living facilities do incorporate landscape design and outdoor aesthetics into their overall architecture. And many elders who are aging at home would have some sort of nature in their living space, whether it be something as simple as a bird-feeder or as involved as the woods beyond a backyard. This exposure to the outdoors (even if they’re not literally out doors), provides a wonderful boost to mood and overall life satisfaction. It’s nice to look out the window and see trees instead of a concrete wall.
At Senior Steps, our geriatric care managers look at the whole picture for each of our clients. This whole picture absolutely includes our clients’ living situation AND the views and daily routine that they may partake in. A client who spent year working outdoors and now lives in a retirement home may struggle with an inward-facing unit, and may even develop depression. Having a view to the outside, to the world, and to nature, can do wonders for our own health and the health of our elder relatives and friends.