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Even if you find yourself living in a smaller house, or in an apartment or condo,
When I lead bird walks and birding tours, and when I attend meetings of our local bird club, many of the very active and energetic people I see are as old as or older than my 60-plus years. One reason for this may be that watching birds makes you feel young-at-heart and helps your mind be clear and focused, like a fine pair of binoculars!
If you participate in bird watching, then you probably spend a considerable amount of time outdoors in nature, which has many proven physical health and mental health benefits. Numerous studies show that being outdoors in nature reduces stress and anxiety. Taking a walk to see birds provides cardio-vascular exercise and (on sunny days) vitamin D for improved bone health.
The sights, sounds, and smells you encounter in nature can increase your sensory awareness and your memory. Learning new skills, like how to identify birds by sight and sound, is exercise for your brain, and actively using these skills can improve memory recall. Paying close attention to small details can keep us sharp and alert, and enhances our memory’s reflexes.
Bird watching promotes being “in the moment,” with something positive to think about and beautiful things, like Baltimore Orioles and Indigo Buntings, to focus on. Listening closely to hear bird calls and songs, or scanning the skies and trees for birds, can help us to tune out the busyness of our lives and be present wherever we find ourselves.
Best of all, bird watching is a social activity enjoyed by millions of other seniors, so it is a great way to meet new friends. In addition, it provides the perfect reason (or excuse!) to travel to new places. And, bird watching provides great opportunities for learning for people of all ages, making it a perfect activity to enjoy with children, grandchildren, and family!
You don’t need expensive binoculars or hiking boots to watch birds. You can do it in your own backyard, from your porch, or out your kitchen window. So, if you have never gone bird watching before, then just fill this prescription and start enjoying the many health benefits of bird watching.
The National Aviary, located in Pittsburgh, is home to over 500 birds representing more than 150 species. Visit aviary.org to learn about upcoming classes, bus tours and travel opportunities, and to plan your visit.
Article written by Bob Mulvihill, National Aviary Ornithologist.
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