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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

11 Ways to Connect an Older Loved One with Nature

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Whether you're the type of person who loves the mountains or the ocean (or both!), you know that freeing feeling of standing in nature and looking around you at the sky. You know how good it feels to have the sun on your face and to feel a fresh breeze.

Our older loved ones, because of limited mobility, often miss the opportunity to experience these same pleasures. According to the Eden Alternative Care Communities philosophy, "Life revolves around close and continuing contact with people of all ages and abilities as well as plants and animals." We know that nature has profound positive impacts on the lives of older people. These benefits include:

  • Boosting immune systems

  • Relieving stress, anxiety, and depression

  • Increasing energy levels

  • Improving memory and concentration

  • Reducing chronic illness and pain

  • Increasing longevity

With this in mind, it's important to make nature accessible to older people in any circumstances.

If your older loved ones have expressed a desire to age at home, you might consider making some improvements that would allow them to continue to enjoy nature, either from indoors or by making the outdoors accessible to those with mobility impairments.

1. Create bigger windows with lower sills. This way, a person in a wheelchair or even an armchair can sit by the window, enjoy sunshine and fresh air, without having to go outside.

2. Build raised garden beds. Kneeling and bending for prolonged periods of time will become difficult for many people as they age. Raised garden beds allow those who like to garden to continue their favorite activity from a more comfortable seated or standing position.

3. Add a porch, patio, or deck. When making home improvements, make sure that the hallways and doorways are easily wheelchair accessible. Keep thresholds low to reduce the chances of tripping or difficulties with wheelchairs and walkers. Create an accessible outdoor space to sit and enjoy some sun and fresh air.

4. Construct paths that are easy to maneuver. Similarly, the river rock walkway that was once so appealing will be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair or walker. Create wide, smooth paths for strolling that will be accessible even as moving around gets more difficult.

Note: Some of these types of improvements can have implications for your estate planning, tax planning, and financial planning. Get in touch with our office to learn more.

If construction and home improvements aren't in your budget, there are still many other ways to bring nature to our older friends and family.

5. Put a bird feeder in the window. There's a reason why birdwatching is such a rewarding hobby for many people: different birds at different times of year offer hope and enjoyment, and the bird feeder is a source of entertainment and activity that's can be lively.

6. Arrange for a visit with animals. There are organizations nationwide that offer experiences with animals. Here in Steamboat Springs, for example, Heeling Friends has a fleet of dogs, already vetted for calm personalities and friendliness, that offer company to older loved ones without the commitment of a full-time pet.

7. Invest in some plants. Houseplants are extremely popular and range in all levels of maintenance, from exotic orchids that need a gentle touch to cacti that can live for years in a window with very little water. Find the type of plant that will meet your loved ones needs. Consider edible plants, too, such as herbs or lettuce towers.

8. Take part in low-impact activities. Fishing is an outdoor sport that many of our older loved ones can still enjoy with limited mobility. Did your friend or family member have a favorite past time that you can bring back into his or her life?

9. Consider a small, easy pet. Just watching life from your chair can bring some amusement. Fish can live in a clear vase and feed off a plant, so they don't need to be fed, but they still offer amusement and a little variety.

10. Entice other senses. Fragrant herbs or a pine bough can bring the smell of nature inside. For our older loved ones who are losing their sense of smell, the sound of water, such as a small fountain, brings a little joy.

11. Display photos of favorite natural places. While it's no substitute for the real thing, when a loved one is truly limited, the memory of a favorite natural place can be soothing. It's so easy to put together a photo book of digital photos, and your loved one can flip through the pages over and over again. Or, frame and hang images in visible locations.

We know that interaction with nature can have a substantial impact on the well-being of our older friends and family members.

Some of these impacts we can measure, such as vitamin D. Some we cannot. Being in the sun, breathing fresh air, and feeling connected to other living things such as plants and animals has always had a greater impact on humans than we can quantify.

We hope that you'll bring some of this joy to an older person in your life that you know and love!

And if you have any more questions about improving the quality of life for an older person you love, contact Swan Law at 970-879-1572 or email Client Services Coordinator Kate McKean

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