A local Audubon Society member told a great story. She heard the comment, "Watching birds is for old people," near the Society's booth at a local community's songbird festival when she asked a visitor whether he would like to join the Society.
Next year, same time, same place. The speaker's wife stopped by the booth to say her spouse was crazy about birds now.
What happened? Two easy household changes!
First, the couple had a new awning window put into the dining room. Her husband always sat facing the window and could now view birds during meals.
Second, the spot she hung a new bird feeder was a snap to see from the husband's chair in front of the computer. Whenever he rested his eyes from close work by looking further, he saw the birds. Birds turned out to be fascinating and easy to enjoy.
Feeling close to nature by caring for birds
The movement and activities of birds connect us with nature even indoors. That connection with nature could be an important part of coping with stress and life crises, say two researchers in Canada. Their article reported in the Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences found that nature-based leisure activity may have a "calming and restorative" effect.
Gardeners often report feeling close to nature when in the garden. They can observe life as a cycle of renewal and feel a sense of stewardship toward the garden.
Birds can be part of that stewardship in the aging-in-place garden. Consider that birds like to socialize and to observe their surroundings before taking action.
- Place bird feeders where the mess of seed hulls is not a bother, maybe in a flowerbed.
- Provide tall perches such as tree stumps or fenceposts for observation in the open - even metal crooks to hang a feeder will do.
- Locate a birdbath in a spot where cats can't hide and pounce during a bath or social splashing party
- Include native plants with seeds or berries birds love in spots where you can watch from porch, bench or window
- Allow ornamental grasses and flowers to go to seed for winter and early spring feeding.
Planning for the future garden as you think about aging in place, too.
As my father became very elderly, he spent substantial time in his study watching tiny birds come to the porch railing for the seeds scattered there each morning. He felt connected with the birds and could tell one from another by their behavior and flight patterns. Nurturing those birds was an important part of his day.
Think about alternate locations you can implement for temporary bird-watching if someone in your house is recovering from an illness or finds movement difficult because of frailty. What can you change outside to attract birds? What needs to be revised inside? Maybe curtains or blinds can be removed for a while. Maybe a screen door is added so that the door can be opened to hear bird song.
"Hi, Dad. How are you doing?" "Oh, we're just taking it easy."
We may forget that aging is, in fact, a leisure activity. Birds can be one way to connect with nature in leisure to age well. Ready for your aging in place garden? Second Summer can help.