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Bird watching in care facilities: Study on the influence on personal well-being

The preventive measure “Alle Vögel sind schon da” (‘All the birds are here’, German children’s song) was initiated by the bayerische Landesbund für Vogelschutz e.V. (Bavarian association for bird protection, LBV) together with researchers from the KU in order to offer residents of full inpatient care facilities the possibility of experiencing nature despite their restricted mobility or dementia in order to improve the personal well-being. The three-year project receives scientific support from the Professorship of Social and Organizational Psychology (Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Kals) at the KU.

Over 70 care facilities all over Bavaria, e.g. The ASB-Pflegezentrum in Bad Hindelang, participate in the bird watching, for which feeding stations and material for identifying birds is provided. (Photo: Dimitrij Luebbe/LBV Bayern)

Project team member Patricia Heinemann explains “We want to equip the participating care facilities with feeding stations and provide instructions on bird watching in order to improve the biopsychosocial well-being of the residents”. Nursing staff and residents of the care facilities have formed groups which work on establishing the bird watching as a permanent offer. The group members take care of the bird feeding stations in regular intervals. Furthermore, the LBV provides the facilities with illustrative material for identification of different types of birds. The project receives financial support from several nursing care funds; the Bavarian minister for health and nursing care, Melanie Hummel, acts as patron for the project.

The study (in the preparation of which Susanne Freund was involved as former team member and deputy head of the project) is based on the so-called Biophilia Hypothesis in accordance with which every human being has an inherent orientation towards nature and thus experiences a feeling of well-being when in contact with nature. The bird watching enables residents to get closer to nature even from inside the care facility. KU psychologists will interview both residents and relatives and staff in order to find out about the effectiveness of such an offer. Furthermore, they want to carry out a fundamental review on the connection between the observation of nature, the relationship with nature and the personal well-being in full inpatient care facilities. In addition, the researchers Patricia Heinemann and Veronika Zwerger will approach issues such as community involvement in nature conservation and bird protection and visiting services in nearby care facilities.

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