GARDENING IMPROVES NUTRITION FOR OLDER ADULTS
On the first day of spring, our thoughts turn to the garden and what we will be growing this year. Researchers at Texas A&M University suggest growing more fruit and vegetables. Over half of the older adults in the U.S. do not consume the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. The research study, “Growing Minds: Evaluating the Relationship between Gardening and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Older Adults”, shows that gardening can encourage elders to eat more of the good foods.
The study has shown that gardeners are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetables as compared to non-gardeners. In addition to improved eating habits, 80 percent of the older adults participating in the research study indicated that they feel better because of their gardening activities. Gardening programs have a positive effect for the health and quality of life for older adults.
To view an abstract of the research study, visit: http://horttech.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/4/711Read more
GREAT OUTDOORS INITIATIVE
According to the Audubon Society, there are approximately 48 million people who identify themselves as ‘birders’. There is even an App that is available for i-phones that can help you identify birds. This is all proof that we love nature and want to stay connected in many different ways.
The Audubon Society has been promoting a program to help people connect with nature. The Great Outdoors Initiative celebrates our nation’s spectacular landscapes and natural abundance.
“It’s not fattening. It can change your mood in a heartbeat. And it’s romantic. Taking nature personally is as American as freedom — and nature doesn’t belong to a party,” said David Yarnold, President & CEO of Audubon.
Visit the Audubon Society’s web site to learn more about the Great Outdoors Initiative and other bird related programs: http://birds.audubon.org/Read more
Vitamin D Deficiency in Older Adults
Reports indicate that Vitamin D deficiency is under-recognized and under treated for elders. This partly due to the fact that older adults spend more time indoors and have inadequate intake of Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are one part of the solution; however, most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is produced when ultra violet rays from sunshine meet the skin and trigger Vitamin D synthesis. Studies suggest that Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of the ‘bone-wasting’ disease Osteoporosis. Elders complaining of unexplained pain, injuries from falls, gait disorders may all be a result of a lack of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is easily remedied if we simply create more opportunities for elders to spend time outdoors. This applies to elders living in all communities, including senior communities, assisted living facilities and Alzheimer’s residences. Creating Therapeutic Gardens, walking paths, community vegetable gardens and other outdoor garden areas will encourage elders to venture outdoors. Spending time in sunlight is vital to their health and well-being. By providing benches, people spend more time outside and socialize. It also helps to include activities that people would find in their neighborhoods such as putting greens, bocce and croquet courts.
It is important to remember that the season of the year, the time of day, smog, and skin melatonin are among the factors that affect Vitamin D synthesis. Cloud cover can reduce the suns potential energy by 50%. Shade reduces Vitamin D intake by 60%. Even though we may enjoy sitting next to a sunny window, the sun’s radiation does not penetrate glass. It is estimated that between 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week is helpful for Vitamin D production. And the sunlight is absorbed best when the face, arms and legs are exposed without sunscreen. We need to create stimulating outdoor gardens and outdoor environments that encourage elders to spend more time outdoors in the sunshine – starting this spring!Read more
We are social beings. We like to be around other people. It is good for our health and it is known that people who socialize live longer. There are many places in which we interact with out friends and family and one of the best places is in the great outdoors.
The article in the Dec. 28 issue of the Wall Street Journal, “Making 2011 The Year of Great Relationships” by Elizabeth Bernstein indicates that being outdoors relieves stress. We know that access to nature helps us heal sooner, so, why not enjoy that next conversation outside. Combining the healing powers of nature with a walk in the park, a bike ride or even a sleigh ride in the snow will make us feel better overall.
Roger Ulrich, Ph.D. has defined nature as a ‘positive distraction’. Nature has the ability to help us focus and can improve our concentration. We can help reduce the distractions by turning off the cell phone, i-pod and other electronic devices. The sounds of nature will produce the soundtrack for the social break. Spending more time outdoors with others in 2011 will be one the best things we can do to begin the new year.
A link to the article can be found at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203731004576045721718177728.html?KEYWORDS=making+2011+the+year+of+great+relationshipsRead more
Winter began, yesterday, December 21st. This seasonal benchmark means less time during the day light hours to accomplish our tasks. The day may seem to fly by when we focus on work, holiday preparations and our everyday activities. However, we may pass up our interaction with nature.
The shorter days translate into less daylight and earlier sunsets. This can cause us to be more interiorly focused. (A good book, a hot cup of tea and an easy chair can be very tempting.) However, we need to continue to get outside to help balance our circadian rhythms and produce melatonin. This will help offset feelings of tiredness, inactivity and malaise.
A recent study validates our need to walk for health and well-being. Jody Rosenblatt Naderi and Barani Raman have measured perceptions of people who walk for health purposes and determined the variables of the environment (weather, sound, water, light and other factors) that affect the decisions where to walk. The study “Capturing impressions of pedestrian landscapes used for healing purposes with decision tree learning” begins to look at how walking conditions and health are directly related.
So, be sure to take walks, even if they are shorter than normal during the winter season. Find a friend to walk with you to keep you company and help encourage you on. And, know that the research is helping to validate what we know to be true. Our mother was right. Playing (and walking) outside is good for us.