New DVD program shows how to
maximize seniors' use of outdoor space


A new set of award-winning educational videos addresses a problem an associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M discovered when she visited 68 randomly selected residential facilities for senior citizens in the U.S.
"Most facilities provide outdoor spaces for residents' use," said Susan Rodiek, but her research revealed residents didn't make much use of them.

Rodiek created and served as program director for "Access to Nature, Planning Outdoor Space for Aging," a three-DVD set developed at the university's Center for Health Systems & Design that provides information to help care providers, policymakers, educators, designers and consumer advocates create healthy, inviting outdoor environments for seniors in residential settings at all levels of care.

"There's a lot of research that shows spending time outside can have major health benefits for older people," said Susan Rodiek, creator and program director of the "Access to Nature" series. "If a facility resident goes outdoors for even 5 or 10 minutes a day, it can greatly benefit health, mood, sleeping patterns, hormone balance and vitamin D absorption."

"Access to Nature" features current research findings in gerontology, psychology and design, as well as comments from residents themselves, providing designers with guidelines for creating outdoor spaces seniors will use. The series also helps avoid pitfalls, such as 'invisible' barriers, which prevent easy access to outdoor features.

The DVD set won the Environment and Design Award from the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living, a nonprofit collaborative of 11 national organizations promoting excellence in assisted living.

The "Access to Nature" program is packaged in three 30-minute video DVDs playable on  a computer or DVD player, with a total length of approximately 90 minutes:

Part 1: The Value of Nature for Older Adults

This video demonstrates the importance of having people, policies, and programs that support seniors' outdoor usage. Experts in environmental psychology, design and gerontology identify key issues in planning outdoor spaces, and how experiencing nature may benefit health and improve quality of life.

Part 2: Improving Outdoor Access for Older Adults

Whether planning a new community or remodeling an existing one, this video illustrates a variety of ways a building's layout can encourage residents to go outdoors. Case studies, sketches, and models show how to make strong indoor-outdoor connections, remove 'invisible' barriers, and create successful transition zones.

Part 3: Safe and Usable Outdoor Spaces for Older Adults

By using the right elements, outdoor spaces that were previously underutilized can now become inviting, functional, and well used. Case studies, 3-D animated examples, diagrams and sketches show how to transform existing areas by emphasizing features that appeal to residents, while supporting their need for autonomy and independence.

Each disc in the series is $49.50, or $139 for the entire set. Discounts are available for educators or bulk purchases.

The program also includes online resources, including interactive exercises, in-depth information on dementia, research references, and continuing education credit.

For more information, visit or call the Center for Health Systems & Design, 979.458.1193.


- Posted: Nov. 23, 2009 -

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