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House plants have therapeutic effect

Editor’s Note

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition in recent years, we are living longer than ever before. But this increase in life expectancy also brings an increase in the number of diseases, injuries and impairments that affect older adults. With this in mind, we at the local Visiting Angels office in Salem have created this series of articles to keep our older population and their families informed and to offer some practical advice for meeting the challenges faced by seniors and those who care for them.

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In addition to offering an engaging hobby for older adults, raising house plants can provide seniors with a number of physical and mental health benefits, while bringing the peace and tranquility of nature into the home. Caring for plants offers seniors an opportunity to stay active, and many types of plants are able to thrive indoors with very little effort.

As part of their lifecycle, plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, and in the process they remove pollutants and toxins from the air. Cigarette smoke, household cleaning chemicals and dust and pollens are all filtered out by houseplants as they release healthy oxygen into the air. Not only is the air quality in a room filled with plants healthier, but the reduction in irritants can help prevent itchy eyes, headaches and even asthma flareups.

Research suggests that rooms containing houseplants are filled with up to 60 percent fewer molds and bacteria than rooms with no plants, making the air safer to breathe. In addition, other studies indicate that illnesses related to the common cold are reduced by more than 30 percent thanks to houseplants. Indoor plants add moisture to the air, which increases the room’s humidity and prevents respiratory issues and sore, dry throats.

Plants that are especially good at purifying the air include the Ficus, the Peace Lilly, the Boston Fern and English Ivy. Succulents such as Jade Plant, Aloe Vera and Snake Plant purify the air and produce oxygen all night long, which can result in better breathing and better sleep when they are placed in a bedroom or on a nightstand.

In addition to their health benefits, succulents are also among the easiest plants to care for because they don’t require a lot of water, and the warm, dry air in which they thrive is common in the homes of older adults. This makes them an ideal low-maintenance starter plant for seniors who have little or no prior experience caring for indoor plants.

That boost in confidence can often translate into a better all-around mood and a positive emotional state for these older adults. Positive emotions can also come from the color and life brought to a room by filling it with plants. The fragrances produced by many plants can reduce tension and stress and can lead to less anxiety in some seniors.

Many people find the activity of watering and misting plants to be relaxing, and for those seniors who like to talk or sing to their plants, they can even offer a source of companionship, similar to pets, reducing the sense of loneliness and isolation homebound seniors may be feeling. The sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing they are helping to keep that living thing alive can help in keeping depression at bay.

Lavender, basil and jasmine are all fragrant indoor plants whose smells can liven up a room and elevate the mood of its occupants, especially in the cold months of winter, when getting outdoors becomes more difficult for older adults with age-related mobility issues. In warmer weather, the flowers and plants from an outdoor garden can also be brought inside to liven up a room.

Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in homecare. Visiting Angels non-medical homecare services allow people to continue enjoying the independence of their daily routines in familiar surroundings. To set up an appointment for a no-obligation in-home consultation, call 330-332-1203.

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