Counting birds and bees: promoting wellbeing of older people through engagement with nature-based conservation activities

Start date

January 2021

End date

December 2022


Engaging with nature benefits the health and wellbeing of older people. Nearby nature can increase physical activity. Passive as well as active exposure to nature can support recovery from negative mood and improve cognitive functioning. Some forms of nature-engagement can also contribute to eudaimonic wellbeing by improving social contact and providing a sense of purpose and self-efficacy. However, it is not always clear what works best for who and how, and specific benefits will vary with type of engagement and individual needs and abilities.

We hypothesise that a well-designed citizen science conservation project, tailored to different needs and abilities of older people, can encourage nature-engagement and support health and wellbeing.

Our approach

The project will be carried out at Whiteley Village, a retirement village for people of limited means, housing approximately 500 residents. It is set in 225 acres of natural gardens and woodland. We will work with residents (20) and conservation experts to co-design four tailored interventions (passive vs active and solitary or group based: e.g., watching birds through the window or going on group walks).

A field study (N=80) will quantitatively test the impact of involvement with these interventions (compared to an active control group) on wellbeing (e.g., mood, cognitive functioning, a sense of purpose, physical activity). Additional qualitative analyses will provide in-depth insight into intervention experiences.

This project will examine:

  1. What motivates and constraints nature engagement among older people
  2. Whether co-designed nature conservation interventions can increase such engagement
  3. If and how such interventions can support the health and wellbeing of older people. 

The project will contribute to theory development by testing what works, how and for who. 

Aims and objectives

The ultimate aim of the project is to develop a set of guidelines for future nature-based interventions that are acceptable, feasible, affordable and effective in promoting nature-engagement and supporting the health and wellbeing of older people.


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Research groups and centres

Our research is supported by research groups and centres of excellence.

Environmental Psychology

Research themes

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