As Canada’s population ages, people are looking for ways to improve the quality of life for their loved ones. One approach, which is becoming increasingly popular, is to get people connected — or reconnected — with nature.
A group of researchers from Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) is exploring the link between nature and health through a partnership with The Woodlands of Sunset, a regionally owned long-term care home in Welland.
This initiative, “Wetlands of Sunset: Connecting Memories with Nature,” aims to show the importance of the location of long-term care facilities for the well being of their residents. What makes this an excellent case study for the research is that it is surrounded by wetlands and forests that are also owned by Niagara Region.
Two members involved in this initiative, Marcie Jacklin, an avid birder and librarian at Brock, and Kerrie Pickering, a nurse and researcher, were recently awarded an ESRC seed grant to begin a pilot research project.
Combining their knowledge on birds and health, they are currently working on a transdisciplinary study to explore if engagement in citizen science, specifically bird watching, has an impact on the well-being of long term care residents. They hope to see if engaging the residents as citizen scientists improves their well-being and to populate the Cornell University eBird database for the area surrounding Woodlands, which at present, has no data.
Earlier this month, they installed two bird-feeding stations that residents can view from inside the building.
“This project has been a win-win for me,” says Jacklin. “Working with everyone has been wonderful; the staff is so supportive at all levels and residents have really embraced the project, even those who aren’t official participants in the study.”
“The potential benefits of this project will extend beyond this one long term care facility,” says Pickering. “This study has the potential to provide valuable insights for researchers, other long term care facilities, and the general population.”
The researchers say benefits of the research project include:
- Helping residents understand what citizen science is and showing them that they are still a valuable member of society.
- Helping homes expand the types of activities they can offer to their residents.
- Giving residents and staff the opportunity to be exposed to nature and see birds.
- Populating the eBird database to better understand what kind of birds are in the area and their migration routes.
- Getting the broader community involved in citizen science.
- Transferring knowledge learned in this case study to other LTCs in Niagara and beyond.
Jacklin says she is seeing how the project is making a difference at The Woodlands of Sunset.
“When I walk down the hall at Woodlands and say I’m with the bird project everyone wants to stop and chat about it,” she says. “So far it seems like the benefits of this project are going far beyond what we had initially expected.”
Jacklin and Pickering are looking for donations of binoculars, baby monitors, grape jelly (for orioles) and posters or books of common birds of Ontario and Eastern Canada.
For more information or to donate, contact ESRC@brocku.ca.