These days, our senior citizens can have access to all sorts of therapies to strengthen them as they age, such as music therapy, reminiscence therapy, and nature therapy. Nature therapy, in particular, is a branch of therapy focusing on the connection between humans and nature. People who study nature therapy strive to understand how implementing the natural environment into our lives can help our bodies and minds. If you have an important older person in your life – such as a parent – and you’d like to try nature therapy with them, consider the following ideas:
Delve into the Joy of Gardening
Many people are already familiar with gardening, but if your older friend or family member isn’t much of a gardener or hasn’t spent much time out in the garden for a while, you could both try getting back into the hobby. Gardening can be an amazingly therapeutic, rewarding way to spend time, giving people the chance to engage in physical activity, connect with nature, and nurture living greenery at their own pace.
Look online for tutorials and visit your local hardware store to construct your own raised bed – this way, planting the flowers, vegetables, or other plants of choice will be much easier on backs, knees and joints. A dedicated raised bed also means that gardening doesn’t have to mean tending to a huge, overwhelming space. Why not encourage your parent to grow their own herbs or vegetables, and use them when you cook meals together?
Walk with them
A simple walk can be enough to appreciate the natural environment. If your older friend or family member would rather not walk for longer distances, perhaps you can take short walks in your garden, or drive to a gorgeous local park and have a nice warm stroll there.
You can encourage older people to walk barefoot, as feeling connected to the earth has been shown to have positive effects on wellbeing, and can also strengthen foot muscles and improve balance, which in turn can help prevent falls. To allow your older friend or family member to walk barefoot safely, always have a gentle arm or shoulder available for support and encourage them to walk at whatever pace suits them. You might want to check with their GP first to ensure walking outside is a safe activity for them.
Look out for any walking groups for seniors in your area, as you might like to encourage your parent to join one. Walking as a group has many advantages: they’ll be able to get their exercise, meet new friends in the same stage of life as them, and will have a group of people to support and encourage each other.
Host social activities outdoors
Next time you host a family get-together, why not pick an outdoor location? Spending too much time indoors can be stifling, and if the weather permits, having a meal or playing a game outside with the family can be a very enjoyable way to spend an evening together.
Take up bird or animal watching together
Birdwatching is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience your local flora and fauna and will likely to appeal to many senior citizens, as they’ll have become familiar with many species throughout their lives. Depending on the birdwatcher’s interests and ability level, birdwatching can be either an adventurous activity or a more relaxing way to spend time – and anyone can easily arm themselves with notepad, pencils, and a good pair of binoculars to join the hobby.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to see other animals too, such as squirrels, rabbits or lizards. Why not pick up a book of local birds or animals to introduce your friend or family member to the hobby, and have them check off the birds or animals as they see them?
Spending time in nature isn’t a silver bullet, it certainly helps to soothe our minds, souls, and bodies. Plenty of studies show us that spending time in nature is exceptionally beneficial to our lives, leading to reductions in stress and anxiety: so consider what activities the older person in your life might appreciate the most and help them to enjoy nature’s benefits.
Allison Hail is a freelance writer from Wellington, NZ who finds much of her writing inspiration from calm and beautiful places close to nature. You can find more of Allison’s work here.