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nature and ageing

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Nature and ageing

An Otago study has emphasised the importance of an ongoing connection with nature for well-being in older adults.

The study is a collaboration between Professor Claire Freeman (Department of Geography), Associate Professor Yolanda van Heezik (Department of Zoology), Associate Professor Debra Waters (Department of Medicine/School of Physiotherapy), and health-care researcher Yvette Buttery.

They gathered information from 72 people, aged between 66 and 99, living in family homes, downsized homes and rest homes, on how their relationship with nature alters with changes in age, health and place of residence.

Freeman explains that nearly everyone interviewed said that nature was enormously important to them.

“How they interact with nature may have changed as they aged, but remains an important contributor to their physical and mental well-being. For those less able-bodied, enjoyment of nature can come from something as simple as enjoying a view of a flower, a bird, the sea or the sky through a window.”

Van Heezik says that gardens play a vital role. “Even if age has a negative impact on people’s ability to access the great outdoors due to increasing physical fragility, older adults can enjoy their garden at any age. “

She says that the results of the study have importance for town planning. “In terms of biodiversity benefits, large natural areas support more native species but, in terms of benefits to individual people, it is important to have smaller green private or communal spaces that are immediately accessible and part of people’s everyday lives.”

Photo: Graham Warman