Enjoying the warm summer temperatures doesn't have to be a distant memory for elders and caregivers. Finding an interesting activity that is suitable for a senior’s abilities may take some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.
The Benefits of Getting Outside
A main advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles. Getting out also enables elders to socialize with new people, and be stimulated by new experiences and environments.
Ideas for Outdoor Activities
When selecting activities to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy. What is something they always wanted to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to revisit. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.
Catch a sporting event. Attending a grandchild's soccer game or a professional baseball game can be an action-packed way for your loved one to reconnect with a favorite pastime.
Fish for fun. You can cast a rod from a dock, pier, or other location, even if someone has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair. Check your state’s or province’s tourism websites to see if they provide listings of accessible fishing locations.
Be a tourist. If you live in a city, take an open-air bus or trolley tour to see the local sights. Another option could be a boat tour, depending on what type of equipment an elder needs to take with them. A Sunday drive around town can also allow a senior to check out happenings in the community that interest them. This could be a neighborhood rummage sale, farmers market, community event or even just blooming flowers and trees.
Take a dip. If a senior is willing and able, spending some time in a pool is an excellent way for them to incorporate some physical activity into their routine that seems more like relaxing than a workout.
Stroll around. If a walk is possible, start slow and work up to longer outings. Either keep the first few walks short, or bring along a walker or wheelchair in case your loved one gets tired and needs to rest along the way or requires help getting back.
Be an animal lover. This could be as simple as encouraging a loved one to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds, or could mean an outing to the zoo or local dog park. There are plenty of options for seniors who enjoy animals to get outside and either interact with or observe nature.
Picnic outdoors. Picnics are another flexible activity that you can plan at a park, in your own backyard, or on the surrounding grounds of a long-term care facility. At the park, seniors can watch children run around and enjoy the buzz of outdoor activity. Make sure to locate an area with comfortable seating and plenty of shade in advance, or remember to bring your own.
Go out for a treat. Most seniors have a favorite place to eat that picks their spirits right up. Instead of limiting this indulgence to special occasions or the post-doctor’s appointment routine, make an outing out of it “just because.” This could consist of a coffee and pastry from a favorite breakfast spot, or a lunch special from the diner around the corner. If the weather is nice, enjoy your goodies at a patio table.
Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes or perceive thirst as well as younger ones. With each of these activities, be sure to watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, sunburn, and overheating that could signal it's time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time.
—By Caren Parnes
Contributor for The Senior’s Choice