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University Study Links Flowers to Senior Citizens' Well Being
Research Shows Flowers Boost Seniors' Happiness, Memory, Social Networks
BOSTON, MA - Everyday, America's aging population - 40 million and rising - faces the challenges of growing older, including depression, memory loss and social withdrawal. As a concerned nation, we are continually exploring new means to ease daily-life anxieties. Researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, released the results of a six-month behavioral study on the health effects of flowers on senior citizens. The study demonstrates that flowers ease depression, inspire social networking and refresh memory as we age.
"The results are significant because as our nation grows older and life becomes more stressful, we look for easy and natural ways to enhance our lives - and the lives of our aging parents," said Dr. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, lead researcher and director of the Human Development Lab at Rutgers. "Now, one simple answer is right under our noses."
This research follows a study conducted in 2000, which links flowers to greater happiness and life satisfaction in women. In 2001, the Rutgers team set out to explore the effects flowers would have on senior citizens, who experience different living situations and greater life changes.
Prevention in a Bud, Not a Bottle
More than 100 seniors participated in the Rutgers research study, in which some received flowers and others did not. The results shed new light on how nature's support systems help seniors cope with the challenges of aging. The results are as follows:
1. Flowers Decrease Depression. Study participants showed a significant increase in happiness and positive moods when flowers were present.
2. Flowers Refresh Recent Memory. Seniors performed higher on everyday memory tasks and experienced enriched personal memories in the presence of flowers.
3. Flowers Encourage Companionship. Seniors who received flowers re-engaged with members of their communities and enlarged their social contacts to include more neighbors, religious support and even medical personnel.
"Instinct tells us that flowers lift our spirits, but, their effects on seniors are especially profound, if not surprising," said Haviland-Jones.
New Evidence Sprouts Up
Specifically, 81 percent of seniors who participated in the study reported a reduction in depression following the receipt of flowers. Forty percent of seniors reported broadening their social contacts beyond their normal social circle of family and close friends. And, 72 percent of the seniors who received flowers scored very high on memory tests in comparison with seniors who did not receive flowers.
"Happier people live longer, healthier lives and are more open to change," said Haviland-Jones. "Our research shows that a small dose of nature, like flowers, can do a world of wonder for our well-being as we age."
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Background The Flowers & Seniors Study (2001) is the second floral research project conducted by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Project Director, Human Development Lab at Rutgers. Dr. Haviland-Jones is a psychologist and internationally recognized authority in the role of emotional development in human behavior and nonverbal emotional signals and response. In 2000, Haviland-Jones completed the first phase of her research on the emotional impact of flowers on women. The study, known as The Emotional Impact of Flowers, can be viewed at www.aboutflowers.com. The Society of American Florists worked in cooperation with the Rutgers research team, bringing its expertise of flowers to the project.