Summertime. Just the thought of it conjures images of lazy days, fireflies, baseball outings, lake or beach visits, picnics and barbeques with the family. While this summer is bound to be different from any other in recent memory, it doesn’t have to be without enjoyment.
Assisted living facilities throughout the nation, shuttered to visitors due to the pandemic, are starting to open up to visitation. Every state, (and even every county), are operating on their own timelines for these lifting on restrictions, to maintain the highest of safety standards for the health of their residents and caregivers. For our most vulnerable communities and family members, it is important that even without the outside social interaction we ensure the overall mental and emotional health wellbeing is met.
One of the greatest ways to keep the mind and spirit up is through exercise. Even without barbeque games, beach visits or strolls through the woods, there are safe and refreshing exercises that can be done indoors or outdoors.
The Upside to Aging shares a gentle chair yoga routine that builds strength and stamina while promoting a calm mind.
AARP offers more active, senior workouts from experts on ageing through fun, 10-minute routines which can all be done safely at home.
Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh painted his famous work, Starry, Starry Night while staying at a long-term hospital facility? He was given the freedom of the grounds and able to go outside and practice his unique plein air style in the summer of 1889. Reports are that his disposition improved greatly with the added sunshine and creative outlet. While we might not all be the impressionistic master, there are numerous studies that show the positive effects art can have on mental wellbeing. En plein air (meaning “painting in the outside air,” can be especially helpful as it gives the painter the benefits of Vitamin D from the sunlight at the same time.
Another way to take advantage of the natural Vitamin D offered these summer months is through gardening. Since the country began quarantine, hundreds of thousands of at-home seniors have turned their attention to the joys of plants and flowers. While the act of pruning, potting, planting and watering can be therapeutic mentally, gardening also offers a number of physical benefits as well. Among those are:
• Gardening relieves stress. Alleviating stress is something we all look to do at any age. Researchers found that gardening can lower levels of cortisol which cause stress, high blood pressure and even affects glucose levels.
• Gardening increases serotonin levels. Just as gardening lowers our cortisol levels, it also raises our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps to put you in a good mood and helps you feel calm.
• Gardening boosts the immune system. Studies have shown that spending time in the garden can also boost the immune system. The so-called “friendly soil bacteria” (Mycobacterium vaccae) found in garden dirt has been found to alleviate problems like asthma, psoriasis, and asthma. So, go ahead and get your hands dirty! It’s good for you!
• Gardening is good exercise. While you may not be running a 5k, there’s no doubt that gardening gets the blood pumping. Bending, squatting, and pulling weeds takes a lot of physical energy. It may be a good idea to get some stretches in before you hit the garden to avoid straining a back muscle or injuring something else.
• Gardening may lower the risk of dementia. Gardening requires a lot of hand/eye coordination as well as sensory awareness which may be why researchers have found that it helps to lower the risk of dementia.
Even those with Alzheimer’s and dementia can find gardening therapeutic for dealing with the disease.
So while this June may be different from those in the past, the simple pleasures of summer are still around for us and for those we love to safely enjoy until we can gather together once more.