This paper details a systematic review of quantitative studies on health and wellbeing impacts of indoor forms of nature. It focuses on older adults in residential settings and includes real, simulated and artificial forms of nature.
From a review of 26 studies we find a generally weak evidence base, with 18 studies having a high risk of bias. However, several higher-quality studies found indoor gardening and horticulture programs were effective for cognition, psychological wellbeing, social outcomes, and life satisfaction.
Having contact with nature can be beneficial for health and wellbeing, but many older adults face barriers to getting outdoors.
This study has shown there is inconsistent evidence that indoor nature exposures are beneficial for older care residents. We expect that successful interventions were, at least partly, facilitating social interaction, supporting feelings of autonomy and control, and promoting skill development—these factors may not be associated with nature.
Higher-quality studies—with improved reporting standards—are needed to further explore these mechanisms.