Nature Indoor Walk at Marston Court

Friday, 16 August, 2019


My name is Julia Glassman and I’m a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. This news article is a follow-up on my previous post from June! I’ve had the pleasure of interning with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, where I got to create my first Indoor Nature Walk at Marston Court, a care home in north Oxford. The Indoor Nature Walk is designed to increase wellbeing within care homes by bringing the seasons indoors through art and engaging the senses through various elements. The project is part of a larger research project which works to better understand how nature can impact quality of life with care homes. By refurbishing current indoor spaces, instead of rebuilding or even building new care homes with more greenspaces, the Indoor Nature Walk design currently supplies the most sustainable solution for providing nature stimulation to nursing home facilities lacking outdoor spaces.

My internship started with finding a care home to partner with and diving into research. Quickly, and surprisingly, I came across Marston Court and they were eager to get started on the project. First, I conducted interviews to get to know their community and ask them their thoughts on bringing nature indoors. For example, some questions were related to wellbeing, which will allow me in a follow-up study to see if resident and staff overall wellbeing improved after the walk was installed. The one-on-one conversations also included questions on design elements, which helped me figure out what the Marston community would want to see included. After data collection was complete, I was able to begin purchasing items for the walk. Preparations involved working to ensure most products were sourced sustainably, either from local companies or manufactured from recycled materials. For example, signage was customized using a local business that uses recycled plastics.

During the month of August, I worked hard to install the walk by Marston Court’s annual Garden Party. As murals went up on the walls and pieces came together, staff were eager to provide feedback. Comments included, “This reminds me of where I grew up”, “I like passing by this one, it makes me think of my mom”, and “I like the sound of the water, it really is relaxing and calming to me.” Additional feedback provided insight on changes that needed to be made to make the nature walk the best version it could be for Marston Court. For example, many staff indicated interest in painting the staircase blue to look like a skyscape, a design feature not in the original layout, but due to staff demand ended up in the final product.

When one visits the Indoor Nature Walk they can walk through the seasons and engage all their senses. The walk begins with decorated wallpaper to create the illusion of a stroll through winter, spring, summer, and autumn. As you pass down this corridor, a motion sensor cues bird sounds to truly immerse one in the experience of the seasons. Next, passing through double doors, appears a patio chair seating area within an alcove underneath a cloud-decorated staircase. The staircase frames a mural of bluebells adjacent a large set of windows where bird feeders hang. If one decides to have a seat, they will hear the sound of water coming from a tabletop water feature and they can choose to read about the Indoor Nature Walk in informational pamphlets located on the table as well. Moving on, along the edge of the staircase are panels of moss, which can be touched and smelled as indicated by an informational sign. Lastly, the walk ends at a mural of the English countryside with a sign encouraging residents to enjoy the outdoor courtyard along with a bunny and parakeets.

A true research project’s work is never done especially when working closely with a community. While the Indoor Nature Walk installation is complete, my work with Marston Court continues, for my hope is to revisit the UK and truly see how nature indoors has impacted the wellbeing of the Marston community. My overall goal is to use the Indoor Nature Walk as a template that can be applied to future care homes, bringing more elders and their staff the benefits of the outdoors.
I am incredibly grateful to the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare for believing in me and supporting me as I carried out the Indoor Nature Walk project. Thank you to Marston Court for letting me transform your space and thank you to the University of Michigan for the funding to make such change.

Julia Glassman