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Study finds benefits for older adults who live close to trees or water

piedmont park
Photo: Kevin C. Rose/

Living near bodies of water, parks or other green spaces may help older adults avoid first-time hospitalizations for Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, say researchers from Harvard University.

They looked at data for around 62 million Medicare recipients, including ZIP codes and proximity to natural environments or vegetation. Findings show that living near greenery, parks or water was associated with a lower rate of first-time Parkinson’s hospitalizations. Higher-than-average greenery was linked to lower rates of first-time hospitalizations for Alzheimer’s. 

In a Dec. 20 article published on the WBUR-FM website, lead study author Jochem Klompmaker, a research fellow in the Harvard Department of Environmental Health, said the role of plants and trees in the reduction of air pollution could partly explain the findings. He suggests that urban planners and policymakers “create healthier environments” for healthier lives. 

“We can’t cure these diseases, so it’s important to identify modifiable risk factors so that people don’t get sick,” Klompmaker said in the article. “Increasing physical activity [and] lowering stress and air pollution levels can be good for your health.”

The study was published online in JAMA Network Open.

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