Nearness to Nature May Lower Risk of Dementia

Researchers at the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine have released a preliminary study whose results suggest that living closer to nature—including parklands, community gardens, other outdoor spaces, and bodies of water such as lakes, reservoirs, and coasts—may reduce older people’s risks for cognitive impairment, dementia, and other psychological disorders. The study involved nearly 43,000 people age 65 and older living in urban areas in Washington state. What researchers found is that people living within half a mile of what they called green or blue spaces had a 17% lower risk of suffering serious psychological distress compared to people living farther away from such spaces. “Since we lack effective prevention methods for mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” one researcher observed, “we need to get creative in how we look at these issues.” She added: “This study may help inform public health policies, from where residential facilities are located to programs to improve mental health outcomes of people living in long-term care centers or nursing homes.”

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