Everyone loves flowers. But did you know that recent research has shown that flowers can have an amazingly positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our beloved senior citizens? It’s not just the pleasant fragrance or attractive colors — flowers can have actual therapeutic benefits for seniors, including decreasing depression, increasing recent memory, reducing social withdrawal, and boosting overall happiness.
A six-month behavioral study, involving over 100 senior participants, was conducted at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, in 2001. Researchers were following up on a 2000 study, which revealed a link between flowers and greater life satisfaction in women. This time, they sought to explore the healing power of flowers on the elderly.
The results were unmistakable: 81% of seniors who received flowers reported reduced depression, while 40% broadened their social activity and 72% scored higher on memory tests than those who did not receive flowers.
Our grandparents, parents, and the rest of America’s aging population (over 40 million and rising) deserve the best quality of life possible in their golden years. Furthermore, the beginning of Spring is a perfect time to get back out into the garden.
So read on to discover 3 ways the gift of flowers can also be the gift of wellbeing for the senior in your life.
1. Decreased Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Depression can feel different for the elderly, and often goes undetected. Older adults may be less willing to communicate about their depression due to social stigma, or healthcare providers may mistake their symptoms for a natural reaction to illness and life changes. Stress and anxiety are also common challenges for the aging and can have major consequences for their quality of life. Fortunately, research has consistently linked flowers with emotional and physical wellbeing.
Simply receiving a fresh-cut bouquet can immediately lift your loved one’s mood; a 2005 study, also from Rutgers, found that 100% of people who received flowers responded with a “Duchenne Smile,” a scientific marker of genuine, heartfelt enjoyment. Additionally, a 2009 study confirmed that having flowers in the room can lower anxiety, stress, fatigue, and even postoperative pain.
Finally, still more evidence has linked indoor plants like flowers to boosted creativity, task performance, and overall mood. A more positive emotional life leads naturally to…
2. Socialization and Companionship
Loneliness and social isolation can pose serious health risks for senior citizens, putting them at increased risk of dementia and other conditions such as heart disease and cognitive decline. As social creatures, human beings need connection and companionship in order to thrive. However, aging can bring many obstacles to socialization that result in a more solitary life for our seniors.
A gift of flowers can be a thoughtful way to remind your loved one that you are thinking of them; according to the 2001 Rutgers study, seniors who received flowers re-engage with members of their communities and broadened their social circles.
Planting flowers together with the senior in your life can go even farther. Being physically active is a great way to manage loneliness, and your loved one is sure to appreciate the experience of getting outside and making new memories with you.
While we’re on the subject of memories, flowers can also help…
3. Refresh Recent Memory
Senior participants in the Rutgers study performed higher on everyday memory tasks and were able to better retain and experience enriching personal memories when there were flowers present.
What’s more, scientists have long known that scent, emotion, and memory are closely intertwined. Smell has a stronger link to recollection than any of the other senses, and a familiar odor can trigger an extremely vivid memory. That means that flowers, with their pleasant and distinct fragrances, offer a powerful opportunity to help seniors uncover and experience meaningful memories they may not have thought about in many years.
Does your loved one have any favorite memories tied to specific types of flowers? If so, a vase of those flowers may be an impactful gift. Or, try planning and planting a therapeutic memory garden. Hearing all those stories that planting flowers might unearth will be rewarding for you, too.
We’re Here to Help
The changes that come with aging can be difficult to confront, and reminding your senior loved ones that you care is vital to their overall health, happiness, and wellbeing.
Here at Reflections Management and Care, we are dedicated to helping manage all aspects of senior healthcare, either in-home or in-patient. We are aging life care specialists, we care about your elderly loved ones, and we’re here to help you figure out suitable options for your aging parents so they can live their best life.
Give us a call or contact us to start a conversation, and let us help ensure your loved one’s quality of life so you spend less time worrying…and more time planting flowers!
You can also see more about our services here.