More time outdoors: necessary for young and old

May 25, 2016 |  Margaret Kernan, ICDI

by Margaret Kernan, ICDI 

This month’s edition of Scientific American highlights the dramatic increase in near-sightedness or myopia. By 2050 almost half the world will be near-sighted and will require some sort of corrective lens.A key cause seems to be that people, especially children, are spending too little time outside being exposed to natural light. (See also the Nature article on this topic, 15 March 2015).

Over the past three weeks the TOY website has features news stories from North America about shared spaces where young children and older people do activities together and benefit from each other’s company. Given the link between short sightedness and lack of time outdoors, not to mention all the research which links time outdoors and in nature to wellbeing for all generations, it was worrying to see the apparent absence of shared time outdoors in all three of the initiatives featured.

This trend is not just a feature of services in North America.  A recent Guardian newspaper story in the UK highlighted the shocking statistic that 74% of children between 5 and 12 years spend less time outdoors than prison inmates, who are required by UN guidelines to spend at least one hour outdoors.

The TOY approach prioritises intergenerational activities outdoors and in nature.  We would appreciate your help in bringing more attention to this topic and would be happy to feature your news stories or blog posts about young children and older adults together outdoors.