Tip for Seniors: Strolling for Senior Mental Health

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows what all of us know intuitively: Walking in nature improves your mental state.

If you are a senior living in an urban environment (for whatever reason), the best you can hope for is an age-friendly city planner that pushes for creating more natural spaces to break up the built environment. Something needs to happen, because living in urban areas is associated with increased levels of mental illness, including depression and anxiety. Researchers aren’t sure why.

May I make the observation here that this might be a good time to use some common sense? (Actually, now that I think about it, common sense isn’t that common anymore. My Grandmother knew that 100 years ago when she would admonish, “Use your good sense!”)

Shocker: Walking in beauty is better for mental health than walking in ugly

The study conducted by Gregory Bratman et al. found 90 minutes of walking through nature reduced the risk factors for mental illness. The same 90-minute walk in an urban environment had none of these particular positive effects. Can you believe it actually took a study to verify that volunteers briefly walking through a green space at Stanford were happier and more attentive than volunteers who walked near heavy traffic?

Bratman and Co. didn’t examine the neurological mechanisms behind the finding, but who (besides a researcher) cares? Other studies look at blood flow in the sugenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC) to verify neural activity in that area of the brain associated with self-focusing behavioral withdrawal. (Put a cocktail or dinner party to sleep with that sentence.)

What difference does it make how it works? The takeaway is walking in nature is good for you.

turtles walking on a log

Feel your sgPFC blood flow increasing? (a.k.a. “Does this make you feel good?”)

Naturally healthy senior living

There is an important lesson here for those interested in abundant and successful senior living locations. We selected Rincon del Rio as the site for our active-adult community because it’s all about living, breathing, participating, and being happy in nature! When you open your door in the morning and step outside, you are on a walking trail leading you to some new discovery, a new friend, or a new idea.

Watching the turtles and frogs at the pond (who are also presumably increasing blood flow to their turtle and frog sgPFCs) while you have your morning coffee somehow just can’t be duplicated in an urban setting. I know. I’ve “studied” it firsthand.

Won’t you join me? Use the Contact Us tab to arrange for your own morning walk and conduct your very own research on happiness and well-being, niche living in nature, and creating your own healthy future.