Contributed by Tiffany Silverberg
It’s that time of year. The sun has warmed up and the lure of being outside grows stronger every day. It’s also a great time to get the whole family – from kids, to grandkids to grandparents and more – together to enjoy outdoor activities. The outdoors offer activities for elderly parents, but it’s important to know that certain activities can be waring and sometimes dangerous for the older participants. Elderly people can be easily exhausted. If you’re looking for a ways to get the whole family together, here are some tips and ideas for getting everyone outdoors in a safe way for all parties involved.
Why It’s Important
Even if it’s just the backyard or porch, the great outdoors offer an array of benefits for the entire family – including elderly parents. Fresh air and sunshine can be a mood-lifter after a long, cold winter indoors. The vitamin D that the sun provides is not only healthy for the immune system, but also supports your bones, cardiovascular system, and more! Being outside also encourages exercise. Outdoor activities for elderly parents break up the monotony of daily routines and give everyone a chance to enjoy the changing seasons together. Stimulating the mind, body, and soul, outdoor activities are a simple, powerful move toward overall health.
If the seasons are just warming or your parents haven’t been outside much because of cold weather or illness, it’s important for them to start start slow. Encourage a nice walk around the yard for a good place to warm up. Even just a walk to the mailbox and back, finishing with a glass of iced tea on the porch swing, can be a good way to introduce outdoor activities for elderly parents. The garden is another great place to start. If bending down is too much, set up a station to work with small potted plants on a table. Paint the pots together first and plant seedlings to enjoy some fresh air and outdoor fun. Later, you can help transfer the plants to the ground if they outgrow their pots.
Outdoor activities for elderly parents don’t have to be formal or organized. Just walking can be invigorating and helpful for everyone. There are so many benefits of walking: bones, muscles, and hearts grow stronger with every step. Moods improve as heart rates increase. Plus it’s a simple activity that everyone can do together. As endurance and strength increases, you can help your parents do more laps around the yard, smelling newly bloomed flowers along the way. Over time, you can start walking around the neighborhood or even at a favorite park, beach, or botanical gardens.
With the warm weather approaching, outdoor chores are probably topping the to-do list. The garden needs to be tilled, planted, and cared for. The garage needs to be cleaned out and organized. The cars need to be washed. These big projects can be broken down into small tasks and shared amongst the whole family. You’ll find activities for elderly parents among the list, too. Consider their energy levels and strength. If they aren’t as steady or need to sit, you may want to ask them to sort through items, label things, or other small tasks. Get the kids involved too and have the family enjoy working together on a big task.
While you are outside, don’t forget to keep everyone hydrated. Bring bottles of water and remind everyone to drink often, especially on particularly hot days. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion so keep your time short on hot days and focus on being out in the morning or evening, rather than the hottest, middle time of the day. The Alzheimer’s Association has even more tips for staying safe during outdoor activities.
Having elderly parents doesn’t mean all family activities need to be indoors. Take everyone outside to enjoy all the benefits of nice weather and time spent with loved ones. You’re offering your elderly parents more than vitamin D when you encourage them to participate in outdoor activities – you are inviting them to make more memories with the family.