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Feature Resource – connection with nature

This month, we are sharing with you some content from the National Guidelines Implementation Tools:

1.8 Care recipients are supported and encouraged to access outdoor areas. Those who cannot physically move outside are assisted to connect with the natural world
5.2 Older people have access to the natural environment through gardens, outings and/or bringing nature inside through flowers, plants, photos, sounds and fragrances

“Caring for nature had a significant association with improving the sense of restoration…  Also, observing or caring for plants resulted in a significant quantitative impact on reducing the level of depression” (Kiyota, 2009).

Managers, staff and volunteers can offer much in the way of creating a culture within which older persons can connect with nature.

In both residential aged care and community settings, connection to nature may be supported by engaging horticulture therapy, or finding volunteers that can accompany older persons on walks, or push wheelchairs into gardens. Support people can identify short walks that have even surfaces to minimise falls risks. Staying close to the person can help to create safety. Consider engaging local community groups, such as gardening groups or bushwalking groups, to meet with older persons and support them outdoors.

Leaders have an important role in enabling connection to nature for older people in their organisation. This can be a priority in strategic planning, and can inform recruitment decision making, choosing people who value connection with nature and have experience implementing nature-based programs or training priorities.

In residential aged care, building design processes can take into account outdoor spaces and garden design. Gardens might incorporate garden beds next to often-used paths, or raised beds that can be easily accessed. In many facilities, doors are locked and residents must be accompanied by staff members to access the outdoors. Creating links to outdoor spaces that are safe and contained ensures older people can move freely and safely.

Animals may be seen as challenging, however many aged care organisations now welcome animals as part of their community. This can range from visiting farms or pets, through to resident pets that live permanently at the facility. New residents can be encouraged to bring their pets with them.

Many nature-related activities may already take place in activities or lifestyle programs. To provide a way into spiritual reflection and deepen the experience of connection, read more in our Implementation Tool, including the inspiring examples of small and large initiatives.

“I feel as though my life has meaning now, I am part of something much larger- nature, the grandness of being alive, it is exciting and I see it as a new beginning” (Orr 2016, p.257)

Members can access the full Implementation Tool here.