Green Spaces Renew Elder Care

Bingo and Wii bowling are valuable to the social well-being of people living in retirement homes. But, in Halesworth, Suffolk, England, a creative chain of retirement homes has come up with an alternative: 'get back to nature.'

According to the Guardian, Bupa Care Services has partnered with RSPB, a British conservation group, to create green spaces for their residents. Wrens, blue tits, coal tits, are seen on a regular basis. White butterflies and plenty of bees, are common visitors, too.

Bupa's back-to-nature campaign has swept aside residential manicured lawns and restored them with longer grass, wild flowers, and deadwood for insects. The residents participate in feeding birds, and assisting the gardeners and maintenance staff to construct and paint bird boxes.

Siobhan Drane, community and partnerships manager at Bupa, told The Guadian: "We found it was extremely successful for people with dementia – they were
getting involved in physical tasks. When relatives came to visit they were really amazed by the difference."

At Bupa, walking around the grounds in the morning, feeding the birds and filling the bird feeders, make for a broad range of wildlife activities for residents.

The connection between human health and contact with nature has long been regarded.  Physical and mental benefits include lower levels on obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stress, ADHD and aggression. Other English organizations have shown interest in the Bupa-RSPB partnership.

"We can find ourselves so divorced from the natural world, that even if we are healthy in our bodies, our wellbeing is actually more about our place in the world", said Richard Bashford, senior project manager at RSPB.

As one Bupa resident remarked, "You can't beat a bit of fresh air."

Assisted Living and Continuing Care residences are considering the 'nature' approaches in England.