Bird watching increases life satisfaction of the elderly

© Dimitrij Luebbe

Since 2017, “Alle Vögel sind schon da”, the headline of a popular German children’s song, is the title of a prevention project of the LBV for the elderly in full-stationary nursing facilities in Bavaria. It aims to increase the well-being and quality of life of the elderly people living in the care homes by offering regular bird watching. The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt has accompanied the LBV project scientifically and now confirms its effectiveness: "Our data shows that bird watching particularly promotes the cognitive resources, mobility and social well-being of senior citizens," says Prof. Elisabeth Kals, who led the project together with Dr. Susanne Freund. Across Bavaria, 76 nursing homes with several thousand residents are currently participating in the LBV prevention project. It has now been extended until the end of 2021 and is intended to provide a better quality of life in 60 other senior citizens' homes.

Since fall 2017, the LBV has been setting up bird feeding stations in nursing homes throughout Bavaria and providing residents with information and equipment for bird watching. The scientific results of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt show that experiencing nature in this way helps elderly people to remain mentally and physically active. "We already knew from our own experience that bird watching brings people joy and even makes them a little bit happier. Now, the LBV can prove scientifically that bird watching improves the quality of life of senior citizens – a wonderful success", says LBV chairman Dr. Norbert Schäffer.

Bavaria's Health and Care Minister Melanie Huml supports the LBV's initiative. "Bird watching brings diversion and joy into the daily life of inhabitants in stationary nursing facilities. Opportunities for watching the birds, identifying the different species and feeding the birds enrich their personal activities. Ultimately this active encounter with living nature can bring back beautiful memories, which some may have considered already lost", stresses Huml. "Being active in a group promotes social contacts – this is a particularly important factor for health. In order to meet the individual needs of people in need of care, a broad range of services is necessary. The LBV's innovative project is breaking new ground here – I am very happy to support it as patron," adds the Minister.

"The scientific accompanying study confirms not only the effectiveness for elderly citizens, but also the acceptance of the measure among nurses”, explains Patricia Zieris, who implemented the study. Because successful and sustainable implementation of the bird watching project is only possible with the commitment and the support of the caregivers. "Here, too, it can be seen that the prevention project is demonstrably fully accepted in the institutions," says LBV project manager Kathrin Lichtenauer.

In addition to bird watching activities, the residents of the care homes are also actively included in activities such as filling the feeding stations and discussing about the common experience of nature. Many elderly citizens associate earlier memories with the birds. For example, cognitive resources can be reactivated in patients suffering from dementia. Svetlana Karnaukh, assistant to the home's director at the Marienstift retirement home in Munich, reports: "One of our residents spends whole afternoons near the feeding station in the garden, watching the birds. He visibly brightens up when they come near him. Whenever there is a bird in sight, there is always a lot of laughter and joy".

The corona pandemic meant special challenges for nursing homes. The LBV stayed in contact with the institutions also during these times and found possibilities for continuing to offer bird watching. The LBV project will be extended until the end of December 2021 after the three-year pilot phase and the success that has now been documented scientifically. This is made possible by the support of the nursing care insurance companies and the Bavarian Natural Heritage Foundation. This means that a further 60 nursing homes can benefit from the project.


Background information on accompanying study

During the three-year project period from 2017 to 2020, a comprehensive data basis was created for the accompanying scientific study with surveys of over 1,500 residents and over 300 employees at the care homes. With an average age of 83 years, the residents interviewed were between 40 and 106 years old. Almost three quarters of the respondents were female. In addition, persons of all care levels could be included in the study. The data is thus largely representative of the situation in fully inpatient care facilities in Bavaria. The entire final report can be viewed at