Effect of Increased Time Spent Outdoors on Individuals with Dementia Residing in Nursing Homes

Publication Title

Journal of Housing for the Elderly

Publication Date


Document Type





actigraphy, agitation, dementia, outdoors, sleep


Architecture | Environmental Design | Other Architecture


There is growing evidence that exposure to bright light may improve circadian rhythms in individuals with dementia residing in shared residential settings. The vast majority of this research uses electric bright light boxes. However, the outdoor environment not only provides exposure to bright light but to natural elements which have been shown to have a restorative effect across a broad range of situations. Previous research that sought to eçplore the impact of time spent outdoors on sleep and/or agitation in individuals with dementia was hampered by low time spent outdoors. This project, conducted in three nursing homes (n = 17), used actigraphy, validated proxy measures of sleep and agitation and direct observation to explore the impact of increased time out- doors on sleep and agitation. The repeated measures design assessed residents with dementia under four conditions: winter/no activity, winter/inside activity, summer/no activity and summer/outside activity. Results suggest that increased time spent outdoors resulted in a modest improvement in sleep, and mixed or immeasurable impact on agitation.