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It behooves the older adults in your life for you to embrace a cheery, “Rise and shine!” approach to your therapeutic landscape garden this February. While frigid days don’t usually elicit such a response, the benefits of sunshine are especially keen during these mid-winter months.

Exposure to sunshine spurs the body to produce both serotonin and vitamin D, which impact emotional and physical health. In North America, the optimal time for 15 minutes of winter sun exposure each day is between noon and 2 p.m. During this time the angle of the sun is such that it hits the retina in a way that triggers the release of serotonin. Direct sunlight on the arms, hands and face just a few times a week is enough to cue the body to produce vitamin D.

Health benefits of sunshine include: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, improved skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, strengthened immune system, and improved depression and lower frequencies of SAD (seasonal affective disorder, “the winter blues.”)

However, facts alone won’t get people outside this month. Encourage older adults to venture outdoors by appealing to emotion. Launch a few initiatives that speak to different motivations. A painting class will motivate those interested in keeping New Year’s resolutions to try something new this year, while a walking contest will entice those with competitive streaks. For nurturers, remind them that Mother Nature’s creatures, such as birds, depend on them to keep bird feeders and bird baths full, especially this time of year.

Leverage creativity this month to appeal to people on an emotional level, so that the sun may benefit them both body and soul.

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