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Blue and green spaces are beneficial in all stages of life

The positive effects of green spaces on the general population, especially children, are well-studied and understood in the scientific community. Now, a study from the American Academy of Neurology has demonstrated how important blue and green spaces are to the elderly population. 

The scientists discovered that living closer to blue and green spaces may reduce psychological stress, which could lead to fewer cases of cognitive impairment and dementia. This type of discovery is essential, considering the treatment limitations for these diseases.

“Since we lack effective prevention methods or treatments for mild cognitive impairment and dementia, we need to get creative in how we look at these issues,” explained Solmaz Amiri of Washington State University. 

The study was conducted in Washington state urban areas. The researchers used data from the U.S. Census and the Centers for Disease Control to determine participant proximity to green spaces (public parks, community gardens, and cemeteries) and blue spaces (lakes, reservoirs, large rivers, and coasts). 

The experts found that 70 percent of the participants lived within half a mile of green spaces, and 60 percent lived within half a mile of blue spaces. 

Psychological distress is classified as a level of distress that interferes with a person’s daily functions and requires treatment. To assess the mental state of 42,980 individuals aged 65 or older, the researchers asked six questions that were designed to measure psychological distress on a five-point scale.

The analysis revealed that participants within half a mile of green and blue spaces had a 17 percent lower risk of experiencing serious psychological distress. The researchers hope that these findings will have an impact on where senior care facilities are located.

“Our hope is that this study may help inform public health policies in the future, from where residential facilities are located to programs to improve mental health outcomes of people living in long-term care centers or nursing homes,” said Amiri.

The results will be presented during the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.

By Erin Moody, Staff Writer

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