Stress experienced during depression paired with the neurological changes that naturally occur during the aging process may accelerate the loss of function and cognition resulting in a declining ability to live independently1.
A body of research indicating that exercise, exposure to nature and reflection may be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression informed the following studies discussed below on the effects of garden experiences on symptoms of depression in elderly participants. 2 3 4 5 6.
Over 50% of the participants in a Finnish study experienced improved mood, quality of sleep, ability to concentrate and peace of mind after exposure to a garden. These effects tended to be more pronounced among the depressed than those not depressed.
Seeing plants had a calming effect noted by the patients, who also noted the beneficial effects of fresh air and outdoor scents. These aspects of the garden were more important to those affected by depression than exercise or social interaction in the garden though both also had beneficial effects.
70% of the participants felt there were hindrances to accessing the garden including lack of assistance to get to the garden and garden features that made experiencing the garden difficult 7.
Another study, in the United States looked at the combined strategy of exercise, reflective therapy and exposure to nature. Participants were interviewed and surveyed following a walking program in a Japanese garden with associated guided journaling. The participants discovered an appreciation of the opportunity to get away to experience the beauty of nature, felt a benefit through the direction of thought they found in journaling in the garden guide and felt a calming sense of connection between nature and their life experiences 8.
Integration of these concepts into outdoor areas is not expensive, but it does take deliberate and conscious planning on the part of a skilled design team trained to facilitate an evidence-based participatory design process with residents and staff. This team is best able to create outdoor environments that positively impact the mental health of residents at nursing care facilities by make recommendations
regarding garden accessibility, including programming that offers residents and staff
opportunities to get away from daily routines and reflect and encouraging exercise in safe and intriguing outdoor settings.
Contact Studio Sprout today to see how our well trained team of experts can work with you to design optimal outdoor environments to enrich the health and well-being of your residents and staff.
3. Steinman L, Frederick J, Prohaska T, et al. (2007) Recommendations for treating depression in community-based older adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine ;33(3):175-181.
4. DeMoor A, Beem L, Stubbe D, Boomsma D, De Geus E. (2006) Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: a population based study. Preventative Medicine;42(4):273-279.
5. Mastel-Smith B, McFarland J, Sierpina M, Melecha A, Haile B. (2007) Improving depressive symptoms in community-dwelling older adults: a psychosocial intervention using life review and writing: workshop participants experienced reduced depressive symptoms, supporting further use of and research on this easy-to-implement intervention. Journal of Gerontological Nursing; 33(5):13-19.
6. Talbot, J.F., & Kaplan R. (1991). The benefits of nearby nature for elderly apartment residents,
International Journal of Aging and human Development, 33(2), 119-130.
7. Rappe E, Kivela SL. (2005) Effects of Garden Visits on Long-Term Care Residents as Related to Depression. Hortechnology; 15(2). 298-303.
8. McCaffrey R, Hanson C, McCaffrey W. (2010) Garden Walking for Depression: A Research Report. Holistic Nursing Practice; 24(5): 252-259