Those of us looking forward to spring are well aware that flowers are an instant mood-enhancer and provide greater happiness both in the present and long-term. But in case we want any additional proof of the power of flowers, we only need to look at the study done by Dr. Jeanette Haviland Jones, PhD, of Rutgers University on the health effects of flowers on senior citizens.
There are currently 40.3 million senior citizens in America, and this number is steadily rising. These seniors face huge challenges as they age, from depression to memory loss to social withdrawal, the study suggests. Anything that will ease these life anxieties would be of great benefit to our aging population. That’s what prompted the six-month Rutgers study, which demonstrated how flowers ease depression, inspire social networking and refresh memory as we age.
More than 100 seniors participated in the Rutgers research study, in which some received flowers at different intervals, and others did not receive flowers at all. The results were fascinating, yet not surprising, in terms of how flowers help seniors cope with the challenges of aging.
The Flowers & Seniors Study (2001) is the second floral research project conducted by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Project Director, Human Development Lab at Rutgers. In 2000, Haviland-Jones completed the first phase of her research on the emotional impact of flowers on women. The Society of American Florists worked in cooperation with the Rutgers research team, bringing its expertise of flowers to the project.
“Happier people live longer, healthier lives and are more open to change,” said Haviland-Jones. “Our research shows that a small dose of nature, like flowers, can do a world of wonder for our well-being as we age.”
“The results are significant because as our nation grows older and life becomes more stressful, we look for easy and natural ways to enhance our lives – and the lives of our aging parents,” said “Now, one simple answer is right under our noses.”
The results shed new light on how nature’s support systems help seniors cope with the challenges of aging. The results are as follows:
Flowers Decrease Depression. Study participants showed a significant increase in happiness and positive moods when flowers were present. 81 percent of seniors who participated in the study reported that they experienced less depression following the receipt of flowers. 40 percent of participants reported a change in behavior in terms of social activities, making social contacts beyond their normal circle of family and close friends.
Flowers Refresh Recent Memory. Seniors performed higher on everyday memory tasks and experienced enriched personal memories in the presence of flowers. 72 percent of the seniors who received flowers scored very high on memory tests in comparison with seniors who did not receive flowers. The results of this study are excellent news for anyone wanting to improve the health and longevity of an aging loved one: Make flowers a regular part of their day, and help them live happy, fulfilling lives for years to come!
Flowers Encourage Companionship. Seniors who received flowers re-engaged with members of their communities and enlarged their social contacts to include more neighbors, religious support and even medical personnel.
“Instinct tells us that flowers lift our spirits, but, their effects on seniors are especially profound, if not surprising,” said Haviland-Jones.
Not only does color change the feel of a room, it can also improve a senior’s mood and abilities. Warmer colors like oranges and reds improve focus and appetite. Cooler colors such as lavender and blue are calming and encourage reflection. Pink has been shown to bring calm, and natural green hues that evoke the outdoors are both calming and balancing.
Flowers are an Indoor and Outdoor Pleasure
You can bring the mood-boosting benefits of flowers and greenery indoors, too. Indoor plants and the vibrant colors they inspire benefit everyone! Here are some tips for bringing spring’s blossoms – and all of their healthful benefits – indoors all year round. For example, a bouquet of cut flowers is a sure way to brighten up a senior’s space. Look for unexpected places to bring color and fragrance, like a bedside table.
Plants, especially flowering plants, connect seniors to nature and the rhythm of the seasons. Plus, they’re excellent for improving air quality. Peace lilies are a low-maintenance favorite, with large white flowers in the spring. Container gardens are an ideal choice for seniors who enjoy gardening, but have limitations on space or activity. We have a very abundant container garden at the Brookhouse Home and use some of the herbs for cooking. Finally, flowers have an important meaning to us all – especially during difficult times!