With Air Quality Awareness Week coming up in May, we thought now would be the perfect time to explore the benefits of good air quality for seniors in San Francisco and elsewhere. If you have a loved one in hospice right now, getting them some fresh air can be more challenging than ever. But it’s important for your senior loved ones — those in hospice or home care — to get outside, even for brief periods of time. In fact, everyone should get fresh air at least once a day. Here’s why it’s important, especially for the elderly, chronically sick or terminally ill.

If someone you love or care for is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or is in hospice, or is home bound and currently receiving home care, it’s imperative that you keep that person as safe as possible. It may be harder and harder to take your loved one outdoors for some sunshine and fresh air, especially if they have Alzheimer’s and tend to get agitated around a lot of people or confused about their surroundings. But the benefits of fresh air cannot be ignored.

Not only does this experience bring comfort and joy to those who have been confined to their home and get them in tune with nature, it provides many physical, psychological, and social benefits. Studies show that seniors who get outside on a daily basis are less likely to have health problems, like chronic pain or sleep loss, and are more likely to remain active than those who stay confined indoors.

Of course, there are many mental and physical hurdles that prevent seniors from getting the fresh air they need. Depending on your loved one’s abilities, even a short excursion can require a lot of energy. If your loved one has mobility issues, the simple act of venturing outdoors can be a daunting one. However, breathing some fresh air and changing up their surroundings can do more than diminish complacency, boredom and depression.

Physical Health Benefits

Studies show that being outdoors, surrounded by fresh air and nature, increases energy by 90 percent, says the Huffington Post. Physical benefits of getting outdoors include improved sleep, awareness and diet. It can also improve memory and verbal expression, and activity and exercise levels.

Psychological Health Benefits

Getting outdoors can encourage mood enhancement, lower stress levels, and lift spirits, especially for those with dementia who may get agitated indoors easily, or those facing a terminal disease in hospice. Getting outdoors provides your loved with a stronger sense of self and gives them more control over their surroundings, which increases self-esteem, happiness and confidence.

Social Health Benefits

Spending time outdoors with your senior loved one helps them feel less lonely and isolated, especially if they are confined to the indoors with mobility issues or a life-limiting disease. You are giving them the gift of increased social interaction, with more opportunities for encounters with others. Even if they can’t get too close, they can enjoy watching dogs on a walk, say hello to a neighbor and just generally enjoy the surroundings. Being among other humans is sometimes enough to push that re-set button on life.

You may have to start small, as your senior loved one may be unable to handle a lot of activity at once. Make sure any outings are as safe as possible. Clear pathways, stay on side walks, and help them up steps. Ensure they wear comfortable shoes weather-appropriate clothing. Keep it short to avoid overwhelming them. For those more active seniors, step up the game and go for a walk around the block or do some gardening. Of course, you could just sit at the patio sipping a glass of lemonade. It still counts as fresh air!

Ways to Enjoy the Benefits of Time Outdoors

Incorporate some of these outdoor activities into your senior’s daily routine. You will have to modify or exclude some based on their abilities, but here is a general guideline.

  • Garden. Connecting with the Earth can rejuvenate the spirit, increase confidence and establish a sense of purpose. Plus, they’re getting some much-needed vitamin D while remaining physically fit.

  • Exercise. Take a walk through the park or courtyard, focusing on how the sun or breeze feels on your faces. You could even try yoga or tai chi outdoors, as these activities are good for calming the mind and allowing for a better night’s sleep.

  • Eat. Pack a picnic, sit down on a blanket and relax in the sunshine. This may even encourage them to eat if they have been having a decreased appetite.

  • Play games. Bring a board or card game outside to play on the patio. Games and puzzles will keep the mind sharp, plus it increases concentration and memory — great for dementia patients.

  • Read. Sit outside with a cup of tea and a good book, giving your loved one the chance for some fresh air without having to be physically active.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Our caregivers encourage getting fresh air for seniors and their families whenever possible. To learn more about our programs, contact us at 888-978-1306.