Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

Impact of greenery on older adults’ mental health in residential care

Mental health issues are common in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). Admission to RACF can be particularly stressful, and has been linked to increased depressive symptoms. Despite the high prevalence of mental illness in RACFs, many facilities do not have adequate access to mental health treatment options, and facility staff are not well trained to deal with these issues. Reliance on medications is common in RACFs due to the current circumstances. It is thus important to develop non-clinical approaches to mitigating these mental health problems. The physical environment of RACFs is increasingly recognised as having impacts on residents’ health and well-being.

This project focuses on greenery because research has shown the therapeutic benefits of green space/elements. However, previous studies examine how active engagement with greenery such as garden use/visits and horticulture therapy is associated with mental health outcomes. No research appears to have investigated whether the exposure to greenery in RACFs is protective against poor mental health among residents. This project examines to what extent the amount of greenery seen from an individual room and common spaces is protective against newly-admitted residents’ decline in mental well-being, and what settings/types of greenery are more effective. This project is part of PEARL (Program to Enhance the Adjustment to Residential Living), an NHMRC-funded intervention project designed to improve the quality of life and emotional well-being of older adults admitted to RACFs.


Professor Takemi Sugiyama, ACU
Dr Alison Carver, ACU
Alanna Lorenzon, ACU
Dr Tanya Davison, Swinburne University of Technology