As our mothers often urged us growing up, “Go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine!” In this case, Mother knows best, and the same advice applies to the seniors in our lives, as well as the children.
The greatest advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sunlight generates Vitamin D, which is a must for a healthy brain, bones, and muscles. Some doctors even prescribe sunlight as a source of Vitamin D to improve cognitive function and mood. Getting out also encourages seniors to socialize with new people and interact with children, nature, and animals. The key is to explore the many activities available and find the ones that most interest your senior loved one.
Just Get Out: What could be more satisfying than a lovely stroll around the neighborhood or senior care facility early in the morning before it gets too hot? The early-morning dew coupled with the newly blooming gardens and ever-greening grass will do wonders for the spirit and provide a little cardiovascular workout as well.
For those who prefer to sleep in, a late summer afternoon or early evening hours work just as well, with perhaps a chance to catch the sun beginning to set by the end. But whatever time of these summer days your senior loved one enjoys a leisurely stroll, it’s always wise to stress the importance of staying hydrated.
“Appetite and thirst tend to diminish with age. This means that even when your body is craving fluids, you might not be aware of it—and you may drink less than you need to stay healthy.” – National Council of Aging
Dig Right In: A home garden is a wonderful way to spend leisurely time outdoors while getting a little exercise and improving the look of the landscape. Plant vegetables, herbs, or flowers in raised flower beds or pots. Nurseries and major home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot carry an array of gardening options that can be planted without requiring extensive gardening experience or upkeep.
Bonus: Gardening is a great way to provide nutritious fruits and vegetables for your home-cooked meals. According to studies, gardening can also reduce the risk and alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other related forms of dementia.
To Market, To Market: One of the most enduring signs of summer and early fall is the ubiquitous farmers’ markets! Visiting a local farmer’s market is an informal way for seniors to be social while interacting with neighbors and vendors, all while supporting our local farmers. The sights and sounds of a farmer’s market, as well as the free product samples and treats, are one of summer’s most memorable activities. In addition to a plethora of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and honey, many markets keep their calendars filled with live music festivals, jewelry stands, art for sale, fresh juice stands, as well as homemade soaps, lotions, and candles.
Some markets may provide benches, Adirondack chairs, stone walls, or other opportunities for respite for your senior loved one. But to be on the safe side, throw a sturdy beach chair in the car, just in case. What a wonderful way to while away a balmy summer afternoon.
Gone Fishin’: Fishing is a relaxing venue that appeals to many older adults. Spending time with old friends, or maybe even the grandkids is an experience that seniors often enjoy and treasure for years to come. A day of angling can help lower stress, it’s relaxing, and it can lessen anxiety. It’s beneficial for older adults because it involves light physical activity. Even if your senior loved one has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair, you can still cast your line from a dock, pier, lakeside, or other location.
Check with your state’s tourism or parks and recreation sites to see if they provide listings of ADA-compliant fishing locations. Many areas across the country have also started offering all-terrain wheelchairs for rental that can help a loved one with mobility issues get closer to the water. Also, be sure to inquire about senior fishing license discounts offered in many states, as well as discounts at local fishing clubs.
Cheep, Cheep: Seniors who enjoy getting outside may find birdwatching, or birding, to be a fascinating hobby. They can spot birds or look for feathers while taking a nature walk or identify species from the comfort of their own backyard while they listen to the birds sing. There are multiple phone apps now available to help your senior loved one find and identify any bird they may spot while on their outings.
For those with limited mobility, you can also enjoy birdwatching in parks where smooth paved roads can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Keep track of the bird species you find with a notebook or snap pictures with your phone or camera. If you end up collecting feathers, you can paste them or press them into a keepsake book or frame.
Regardless of your senior loved one’s physical and intellectual capabilities, there are endless possibilities for summer fun and entertainment! Find out what they most enjoy and modify as necessary to relive those happy memories from days gone by. Just keep in mind safe mobility as well as adequate hydration and protection from the sun. Enjoy those lazy, hazy days of summer!