By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute… Sun exposure.
New research from China suggests that sun exposure, through vitamin D production, contributes improvements in bone health, mood and cognitive functions. It also says that sun exposure, through the regulation of melatonin also helps to properly establish circadian rhythms, improve sleep quality, and optimizes physical and social activity in the elderly. They might have also mentioned that cognitive decline is much more prevalent among nursing-home residents that do not participate in outdoor activity; those who have 20 or more outdoor activities per month have no decline whatsoever!
This is especially important for institutionalized elderly people who tend to spend time in their rooms and asleep in front of the TV. The researchers suggest that the elderly should perform outdoor activities for 20-30 minutes per day, five days per week. They also suggest that the outdoor environment be more accessible to the residents and that some of their programmed activities should be held outdoors.
This is excellent advice and really hits home with me, since my wife and I have a church calling in which we conduct meetings and otherwise take care of the spiritual needs of the residents at an assisted-care facility. We see the physical and mental deterioration that takes place among the people who seldom get outside. We are always suggesting to our charges, and to the people who run the facility, that they get regular sun exposure and eat correctly, both of which would make dramatic differences in their abilities to cope.
Did you know that the risk of being admitted to a nursing home can be predicted by vitamin D levels? In one investigation, those whose serum vitamin D levels were in the deficient category had three-and-one-half times the risk of being admitted to a nursing home as those whose levels were in the highest category. Of course, people with low vitamin D levels are suffering from sun-exposure deficiency. Let’s take care of our elderly by being sure that they enjoy plenty of safe sun exposure.
 Lin TC, Liao YC. The Impact of Sunlight Exposure on the Health of Older Adults. Hu Li Za Zhi. 2016 Aug;63(4):116-22.
 Suzuki T, Murase S. Influence of outdoor activity and indoor activity on cognition decline: use of an infrared sensor to measure activity. Telemed J E Health. 2010 Jul-Aug;16(6):686-90
 Visser, M. et al. Low serum vitamin concentrations of 25 hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:616-22.