Most people enjoy flowers, but did you know it’s now been proven that flowers have a measurable impact on the emotional health of aging Americans? Not only do they have an immediate effect on happiness when receiving them, but flowers also create long-lasting positive effects.
In a study specifically targeting the aging population, Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., interviewed participants to gather a baseline on their general mood, memory skills, overall health, and current level of social contact and support. Then, participants took part in two additional interviews to probe changes in these areas when given flowers.
Participants in the first two study groups each received one bouquet of flowers at different times during the study. A third group received two bouquets during the course of the study. And, while a fourth group received no flowers during the study, they received a bouquet once their participation was complete. In addition to completing interviews, each study participant kept a daily log of their social interactions and participated in various memory tests. The participants were not given an explanation about receiving flowers beyond that they were a thank you gift for their participation.
The results were telling. Sixty-one percent of those receiving one bouquet of flowers reported a reduction in depression overall, while 81% of the two-bouquet group reported lower depression levels and enhanced mood. A significant improvement in episodic memory was noted in 72% of participants and an increase in social contact and positive social behaviors was seen in 40% of the test subjects.
“The no flowers group became irritated and wanted the study to be over, and their depression and anger shifted, but the two doses group got happier and happier and happier,” states Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D. “Happier people live longer, healthier lives and are more open to change. Our research shows that a small doses of nature, like flowers, can do a world of wonders for our well-being as we age.”
It’s been well documented that depression reduces social contact and memory. Senior citizens are quite prone to depression, as they are often dealing with major life changes. In fact, it’s estimated that seniors have the highest rate of under-reported and undiagnosed depression than any other age group.
At Paradise Valley Estates, residents are encouraged to cultivate or nurture their green thumb. In addition to having the freedom to maintain their home’s landscape, the community’s master plan includes plant beds and shared garden areas where residents can cultivate and maintain everything from roses to rhubarb. For those less inclined to dig in the dirt, the community has a volunteer flower committee, which creates striking flower arrangements that grace the main dining room and other campus hotspots. For those who want to learn the art of arranging, regular classes are included in the monthly activity calendar.
Whether you opt for an individual or group activity, simply being around flowers can be a path to a more fun and fulfilling day — and life.
Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., is an internationally renowned psychologist in the field of emotional development in human behavior and nonverbal emotional signals and responses. Her series of studies on the effects of flowers show that seniors, along with both men and women of all age groups, can benefit greatly from the natural mood boost that flowers bring. She is currently the Project Director for the Human Development Lab at Rutgers at the State University of New Jersey. She is currently researching the effect of flowers on the health and wellbeing of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia.