Healing Gardens are an important design component in best-in-class senior living communities, and this isn’t surprising considering their ability to provide social, psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits to senior residents and staff. People of all ages and cultures find nature restorative, and Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in healing gardens explains why:
“We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature. Nature was good to us, and we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us.”
Other researchers, including Marcus and Barnes, found more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. In another study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside; changing from depressed, stressed and anxious, to more calm and balanced.
Studies show after a stressful event, images of nature very quickly produce a calming effect. Within three to four minutes after viewing nature scenes the following happens: blood pressure decreases, respiration rate improves, brain activity increases, mood improves, and the production of all stress hormones decrease.
In senior living design, having a lot of green vegetation, flowers and water elements in the Healing Garden are important since they produce positive reactions. This can be accomplished in large or small courtyards, an atrium or within existing recreational areas. The gardens can also be designed to promote exercise and serenity while providing seniors with an enhanced sense of control and include a walking trail around the edge for both personal health or physical therapy sessions. A properly designed Healing Garden will result in measurable psychological, physiological and behavioral health improvements for the senior residents. Residents will experience lower blood pressure and improved immune function, while also experiencing a reduction in anxiety, sadness and other negative moods.
Rick Bartholomew, RID, an Interior Design professional and professor who is part of KSQ’s senior living design team, created a hand-drawn sketch of a courtyard Healing Garden as a design example: