It has long been understood that increasing frailty is a common feature of aging. But what, exactly, constitutes frailty? While the general population knows frailty when they see it, so to speak, gerontologists require a more rigorous definition.
Since frailty is associated with increased risk of falling, hospitalization, and disability, it is important to know how to define frailty — and how to prevent it.
What is frailty?
One of the classic assessments of frailty is the Fried/Johns Hopkins Frailty Criteria. It includes five symptoms of frailty:
1. Unintended weight loss
- Feelings of exhaustion
- Reduced muscle strength
- Decreased levels of activity
- Slowness, particularly while walking.
According to the Fried System, people who do not meet any of the criteria are considered “robust,” while those who meet at least three of these criteria are considered “frail.”
Now that we know what frailty is, we can think about what to do to prevent it. A study published in The Journal of Post-acute and Long-Term Medicine found an unusual factor that prevents frailty: green space.
Green Space and Frailty
The study followed 4000 people at least 65 years old over the course of two years. Researchers found that living in an area in which at least 34% of the environment was “green space” was associated with a lower risk of frailty. Why might this be so? Anecdotally, many of us are aware that viewing a beautiful garden is soothing to mind and body, but scientific studies have shown that such green spaces actually improve cognitive function.
Green spaces also lend themselves to higher levels of activity, whether walking, gardening, or participating in other outdoor activities.
Green space is good for everyone, but its effects are especially heightened for older adults — even if it doesn’t lead to greater activity. In particular, adults over the age of 85 often have limited mobility due to any of a variety of health conditions, and simply being able to gaze at beautiful nature scenes is even important for them.
We at Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, are well aware of the importance of beautiful green spaces. We are situated on appealing landscaped grounds, in order to help promote robustness and well-being in even our oldest residents.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.