The Benefits of Nature in Senior Living Design

  • Nov 9, 2016

By Kelly Fitchett, Interior Designer, The Beck Group

As our senses lessen with age, indulging our connection to nature becomes even more important to our well-being. Many studies have been done on Biophilia, a term coined by the psychologist Erich Fromm to explain the human attraction to nature. In his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness he describes it as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.”

The sustainable design process for senior living communities should embrace this ideal as a “natural medication” and it’s something we keep top of mind when designing for seniors.

We’ve found that something as simple as providing a shared garden and walking path in a senior living community can supply multiple benefits to the residents’ health including:

  • Serving as an antidepressant – It is common for dementia patients to suffer from depression brought on by confusion and the inability to express themselves. Nothing can energize the mind and body quite as well as a walk on a pleasant day. By providing safety rails and wandering paths that give clues to the return point, residents can enjoy independent time without compromising their safety.
  • Offering a place for Physical Therapy – Most garden bins can be built at standing height or ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) height for those using mobility devices. Residents can work the dirt and harvest plant life which is wonderful physical therapy for coordination and joints. Vibrant colors and scents planted strategically by season will provide yearlong enjoyment.
  • Being a hub for socialization – There is a theory that social connections slow the rate of memory decline. Senior communities can invite their local neighbors to join in garden walks and give the residents an opportunity to share their life. Intergenerational connections are imperative to understand where we have been and where we are heading.

As we design our sustainable cityscapes and outdoor activity centers, we must welcome our elderly community to engage by providing safe and energetic spaces.

What all generations have in common is a need and a curiosity of nature that surrounds us. So on the next sunny day, ask your senior neighbor for a walk! Both of you will reap the benefits of nature’s healing powers and time spent together.

About Kelly: Kelly Fitchett is a registered interior designer at Beck, with a focus on Healthcare and Senior Care Studies.