We’ve all heard the idiom, “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” But the idea behind it seems to be lost on many Americans. We are notorious for being busy, almost as if the length of our to-do list determines our worth. Even in retirement, there’s a pressure to always be ‘doing’ something. But to what end? Does busyness bring health and happiness? Residents in Blue Zones®, five regions in the world where people seem to live the longest, do take time in nature and it’s clearly working. Check out the benefits of nature as you age and how you can follow the Blue Zones’ approach in your daily life.
For more information on how we incorporate the Blue Zones’ approach into senior living, check out our Successful Secrets to Aging Guide!
About the Blue Zones
The regions of Sardinia, Italy; the Greek island of Ikaria; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Okinawa, Japan have been identified as Blue Zones. Research has found that residents in these regions share lifestyle traits that help them live longer lives:
- Move Naturally – Keep moving in daily life and avoid being sedentary
- Purpose – Have a reason to get up and out of bed every day
- Down-Shift – Find a daily routine that helps you reduce stress
- Hara Hachi Bu – Known as the 80% rule to stop eating before you feel full
- Plant Slant – Eat a primarily plant-based diet
- Wine @ 5 – Drink alcohol in moderation regularly
- Belong – Participate in a faith-based community of some kind
- Loved Ones First – Put family first in all decision making
- Right Tribe – Find a circle of friends that share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle
They call these traits the Power 9® and believe any of us can apply them to do the same. What’s interesting is that while nature is not specifically listed within the Power 9, it serves as the backbone for most of the traits. From the plant-based diet grown in their own garden, to doing their own yard work, to walking instead of driving, to visiting friends, to running errands, and to making a point to spend time outdoors and in the sunshine, nature is ingrained in daily life.
How Nature Benefits Successful Aging
So why is it important, particularly as you age, to spend time in nature? Over 100 research studies have proven the benefits of nature according to the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, and they include:
- Motivation to be more active
- Increased energy
- Opportunity for more social interaction
- Reduced risk of depression
- Improved attention span and memory performance
- Boosted immune system
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower stress levels
Incorporating Nature into Everyday Life
Following the Blue Zones’ approach, this is easier than you may think because they simply incorporate it into what they are already doing and take the time to enjoy it. For example:
- Dine outside or by a window
- Set up bird feeders or plant flowers that attract butterflies
- Try your hand at planting a small vegetable garden
- Take a daily stroll through your neighborhood or at least to the mailbox each day
- Get creative and learn to paint nature scenes or simply arts and crafts on the patio
- Find an outdoor concert or theatre performance
- Set up your exercise mat on the porch instead of inside
- Host family barbeques or have the grandchildren over to play outside
- Pick a favorite spot in the yard and start meditating each day
- Instead of just letting your pet out to play, toss the ball around or play fetch with them
What if outdoor space isn’t easily accessible to you? Or, perhaps mobility issues make it hard to enjoy the outdoors. You may be surprised to learn that senior living communities also incorporate nature into everyday life. From lush green campuses, numerous outdoor spaces such as patios and courtyards, and even walking paths that are designed to be easy to navigate to gardening clubs, walking groups and locations near parks and outdoor recreation, you may have even more opportunity to enjoy the benefits of nature than you would at home.
During the COVID-19 pandemic you can still enjoy the benefits of nature. Observe physical distancing and safety protocols as you would indoors.
For more information, contact a community near you to arrange a virtual tour!