For just about everyone in the world, spending at least a portion of the day outdoors can be hugely beneficial. It provides a pleasant environment in which to exercise, it bolsters mood in and of itself, and it’s been shown to have a positive effect on the memory.
For most, the solution is simple. Just get out into the garden, or walk to the nearest green space and spend some time strolling about. But for older people who are confined to care homes, it’s not quite so simple. Some care homes come equipped with extensive grounds; others are a little more confined. And there are practical safety considerations to consider, as residents cannot be allowed to simply roam unsupervised.
As a lead author from a recent University of Warwick study put it: “Residents may appear to have access to outdoor space but are prevented from using the outdoor space independently due to poor physical or cognitive function, or need the permission of staff to use the outdoors, reasons that may negatively affect residents’ perception of autonomy and consequently their mood.”
So how do we get the benefits of an outdoor space into the lives of care home residents? There are a few different approaches.
Build a Garden
If it’s at all practicable, care homes should come equipped with gardens. The larger the garden, the better – to an extent. Residents should be able to sit and chat with one another, as well as being able to take an assisted stroll whenever the fancy takes them. Paths should be wide, and handrails should be generous, and there should be plenty of scope for gardening activities.
Go on a Trip
It’s easy for life in a care home to fall into a routine, where every day and week seems the same as the last. You might break up the routine by scheduling certain activities at certain times (you might have a cinema night on a Thursday, for example). But actually going out into the open world can seem like an event, when it’s such a rare thing.
Fortunately, a field-trip isn’t beyond the means of most care homes. Minibus rentals are affordable, and in many cases the buses can be adapted to the needs of older people. Companies such as Allied Fleet have created their very own lightweight minibuses. In the case of Allied Fleet, it’s called Flexilite, and is designed especially for schools, colleges and health social care providers.