Want to be 7 years younger? Add 10 more street trees to the city block where you live.
An article in the Washington Post published July 9, 2015 reported on a large-scale study about trees and the health of residents that was conducted in Toronto.
What is important to know about this study if you are aging in place?
- 10 more trees in a city block increased residents’ perceptions of their health in ways equivalent to being 7 years younger.
- Residents living in blocks having 11 more trees than average report significantly fewer cardio-metabolic conditions. These are chronic health problems that increase risk of heart disease, diabetes or stroke. This would be the equivalent of being 1.4 years younger.
The researchers found that “people living in neighborhoods having a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors).”
The most important trees are street trees.
The researchers theorize that it’s important to have trees “available” to you – trees you notice regularly when walking or driving along the street, not just trees in your yard that you are occasionally aware of.
How can you use the results of this study?
- If there isn’t one in your community, start a chapter of Tree City USA. This organization, part of the Arbor Day Foundation, encourages development of community tree planning, planting, and maintenance programs.
- Ask your city management, or even your homeowners association, about street tree inventories. The US Forest Service can help with information about software for taking and managing a street tree inventory.
- Plant street trees! The average city cost for maintaining street trees is $100-$300 annually, with many other benefits. Compare this with the cost of health care. Even in the United States, with individual responsibility for health care, local communities carry a burden for some health care costs, whether it’s police and fire services called for health care emergencies or tax collection for organizations such as a health care district.
Because Toronto keeps a database of its 530,000 public trees, that data was available for research use, together with satellite imagery for backyard trees. This environmental data was examined, together with health data reported by Toronto residents in the Ontario Health Study. Environmental data and satellite images can be very helpful in learning mroe about what is occurring in your area.
Make your aging in place meaningful! Evaluate where your money goes and take action in your community to ensure you and your neighbors and all of the city’s neighborhoods benefit from the connection with nature found in studies like this.