Natural Spaces with Green and Blue Promote Healthy Aging
Most of us feel better when we are out in nature. We see the colors of the forest and the water. We hear the sounds of birds chirping and bees buzzing. Is it a coincidence that we feel better when we are hanging out in a natural space?
Not according to the research. Multiple studies have shown that natural surroundings decrease stress and increase heart health. We have covered some of this research in this publication.
Now we find in a new study that shows that natural landscapes containing certain colors are particularly healthy as we age.
New research confirms we feel better in nature
A research study published recently in the scientific journal, Health and Place has determined precisely this. But not only did the researchers find that seniors felt better, they also found that certain colors promoted health and well-being.
The researchers traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia and studied a group of men and women aged between 65 and 86 years old. All of the subjects were considered low-income, and they came from eight different racial/ethnic groups.
The researchers interviewed each senior, who described their health and perceptions as they experienced different locations. They also measured their self-evaluated physical and mental well-being along with their social health.
The subjects were measured as they accessed a variety of landscapes. These included city parks and gardens, lakes, the ocean, the streets of Vancouver and so on.
The research found that accessing nature was linked with better feelings of well-being.
University of Minnesota graduate student Jessica Finlay – lead researcher in the study – reflected on the results:
“We zoomed in to everyday life for seniors between the ages of 65 and 86. We discovered how a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health.”
In particular, the researchers found that those who had contact with nature on a daily basis were able to better regulate their activities as well as feel a better sense of purpose.
Colors linked with well-being
Furthermore, the researchers found that interaction with the greens and blues of nature had particular therapeutic value. Blue, for example, provided the seniors with feelings of introspection. The researchers also found that waterfront locations provided better locations for spiritual discovery – and dealing with the stresses of aging and dealing with the loss of loved ones.
Those settings also provided more opportunity for physical activity. This included swimming, wading and walking.
But the researchers found that watching water flow – or even still water – was particularly therapeutic among the subjects.
Finlay commented on the findings:
“This research is more than anecdotal; it gives credence to some small but significant elements of everyday later life. Hopefully it will help urban planners and developers build communities that span a lifetime.”
The researchers added that living spaces can also be improved to provide better well-being as we age. This includes small water features and indoor plants.
Nature runs deep
There is an aspect of nature that runs deeper than our senses go, and our minds have a hard time understanding. Still, the depth and harmonic of nature provides a synchronicity that we can begin to see as we unfold the evidence collected by natural scientists around the world.
Our task now is to try to preserve the greens and blues of nature for the generations to come.
Finlay J, Franke T, McKay H, Sims-Gould J. Therapeutic landscapes and wellbeing in later life: Impacts of blue and green spaces for older adults. Health Place. 2015 Jul;34:97-106. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2015.05.001.
Press Release: Everyday Access to Nature Improves Quality of Life in Older Adults. July 2, 2015.