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Living Near Greenery Keeps Elderly People’s Minds Young

Living around green (or temporarily yellow) space helps slow cognitive decline among the elderly. Jenny Sturm/Shutterstock

Living around green (or temporarily yellow) space helps slow cognitive decline among the elderly. Jenny Sturm/Shutterstock

When you are getting older, you must be worried about dementia or a gradual loss of intellectual capacity. To face such an issue, you would get a lot of suggestions, such as caring about your diet or improved greater intellectual activity, which might be helpful in some way. However, you may not have considered the influence of where you live. In fact, it seems that being surrounded by greenery makes a difference.

Over a long period of time, 10,000 British civil servants’ health have been tracked in the Whitehall II study. Based on samples of 6,506 aged between 45 and 68, Carmen de Keijzer, a PhD student at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, made comparative study on how verbal and mathematical reasoning, short-term memory, and eloquence changed over a period of 10 years.

As de Keijzer said in a statement, their data demonstrated that the decline in the cognitive score after the 10-years follow up was 4.6% smaller in participants living in greener neighborhoods. . It was quite interesting that the observed associations were stronger among women, which made scientists conclude that these relations might be modified by gender. The difference might seem small. However if one considered the huge cost to society and the loss of quality of life linked with declines in these areas, even a small difference could have brought immense consequences. Moreover, if further study could confirm that it was leafy environments that offered such benefits, it might be able to make even bigger differences.

The conclusions, released by Environmental Health Perspectives, were made from the comparison of the amount of green space within 500 meters (1,600 feet) and 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) around participants’ homes.

Generally speaking, wealthier areas are equipped with more parks, or at least larger gardens. However, de Kejzer’s figures controlled for the effects of income, as well as age, marital status, type of job, diet, and alcohol and cigarette use.

This has presented at least two explanations for the effect. On the one hand, there is a wealth of evidence for the psychological and physical benefits of access to nature. It’s plausible the happiness that comes with being surrounded by grass and trees, or an increased propensity to go for walks outside, provide a buffer against cognitive decline.

According to de Keijzer’s observation, it was evident that the risk for dementia and cognitive decline could be impacted by exposure to urban-related environmental hazards , for example,  air pollution and noise. But trees, and to a lesser extent grassy areas, could reduce both of these, therefore it is not surprise that   de Keijzer found such effect.

Based on previous studies, it was also found that growing up around green space could benefit children’s cognitive capacities.

Nevertheless, the relationship between green space and intellectual capacity among older people has not previously been explored over the long-term. It’s unlikely many urban planners include this as one of the benefits of adding more parks to urban areas, but maybe they should.

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