Research underway to inform benefits of greenery in aged care

A new study is investigating the key environmental and health, social and wellbeing impacts of embedding greenery into residential aged care facilities.

A new study is investigating the key environmental and health, social and wellbeing impacts of embedding greenery into residential aged care facilities.

The joint Griffith University and University of the Sunshine Coast study involves two UnitingCare aged care facilities in Queensland.

Project lead Dr Tony Matthews said the 18-month project was exploring the different impacts of greenery on aged care facilities and residents.

“Our research is going to investigate what impacts certain types of greenery, such as shrubs and small trees can have in aged care facilities in terms of reducing heat within the building and around the building, and also in terms improving social outcomes, recreational opportunities and general wellbeing for residents, staff and visitors,” Dr Matthews told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Dr Tony Matthews

“We’re trying to reduce heat in aged care settings and improve wellbeing by using more strategically placed greenery and we will be researching to establish the right condition to do that, and the right types of greenery to use,” said Dr Matthews, senior lecturer in the School of Environment & Science and the Cities Research at Griffith University.

The project is using smart technology  to record the heat results at baseline, target areas for heat reduction and  track improvements in greenery, Dr Matthews said.

“We’ll be able to identify areas where there are heat concentrations or where heat may be entering the building or not dissipating properly and causing health problems and distress to people. And based on that profile, then we’ll be able to deploy different types of greenery,” he said.

Dr Matthews said it appeared that aged care providers currently used greenery for landscaping and appearances rather than for strategic aims.

“They’re doing it for aesthetic reasons. They’re not doing it because they feel it will be possible to use it to reduce heat stress,” he said.

Reducing heat in aged care facilities can provide health, economic and social benefits for both providers and residents, Dr Matthews said.

“If you’ve got heat stress or heat impact in an aged care facility, this would put more pressure on the residents.”

There is also the potential to reduce costs, he said.

“There are huge energy costs associated with aged care facilities and if you’re cranking the air conditioning higher than usual for longer than usual… and you have more medical equipment running… all of that is putting enormous pressure on your energy use.

“That’s causing your cost of operation to go way up, and eventually of course, that’s passed back on to the consumer. That’s bad for everybody,” Dr Matthews said.

Dr Matthews hopes the study will provide proof of the benefits for deploying greenery in aged care to encourage more research and national application.

“If we can prove that there is a direct benefit for the aged care facility, then we would hope to see a wider research agenda quickly follow where we’ll be able to scale off these findings and see that we can apply them to aged care facilities, not just in Queensland, but all over the country,” he said.

The study received a $127,000 Queensland Department of Environment and Science grant as part of the Strategic Adaptation Priorities program.

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Tags: dr tony matthews, environmental impact, greenery, greenery in aged care, griffith university, health, heat stress, impact of greenery, social, unitingcare, university of the sunshine coast,

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