Do residential aged care facilities encourage sun exposure?

Posted on: March 11, 2015   by  Vitamin D Council

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A new study found that the physical environment of the outdoor areas in residential aged care facilities was associated with their use for sun exposure. Additionally, most facilities did not schedule regular activities outside.

Elderly adults are at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. They are likely to spend more time indoors and their skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently.

Residential aged care provides assistance with daily activities to those who can no longer live at home due to various reasons, such as disability, frailty, or death of a partner. One of the main goals for residential aged care facilities is to maintain quality of life among its residents.

Vitamin D provides many benefits to elderly individuals. A study from last year found a positive association between vitamin D levels and health-related quality of life among older Canadian residents. In other words, health-related quality of life increased as vitamin D levels increased.

In a recent study, Australian researchers wanted to know whether residential aged care facilities had design features that encouraged residents to use outdoor areas, allowing residents to produce vitamin D naturally via the skin.

The researchers assessed 36 outdoor areas of 31 facilities by using the design principles recommended in the Vitamin D and the Built Environment in Victoria guidelines, which focus on how the built environment can enable safe sun exposure for vitamin D production.

The researchers found that the facilities met the guidelines for sun exposure, and were generally safe and accessible. However, the researchers stated that, “…many lacked privacy, security, and aesthetic appeal.”

They also noted that most outdoor spaces were not used for regularly scheduled activities. The researchers concluded that the physical environment of the outdoor areas were associated with their use of sun exposure.

“Suitably designed or modified spaces have the potential to encourage their greater use, and residential aged care facilities should also plan regular activities in those areas. These measures can facilitate safe sun exposure, as well as physical activity and social interaction in older people.”

Source

Durvasula S., et al. Outdoor areas of Australian residential aged care facilities do not facilitate appropriate sun exposure. Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association, 2015.

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