Enjoying a breezy spring day or 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 takes some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.
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, says Dr. Michael Raab, a geriatrician with Lee Health System in Fort Myers, Florida. Some doctors even prescribe sunlight as a source of vitamin D, which research has shown can improve cognitive function and mood.
In addition to the physical benefits of natural sunlight and fresh air, being outside provides mental and emotional benefits. Getting out enables elders to socialize with new people, and many outdoor activities provide opportunities for interacting with children and animals. Such activities can give people an extra spring in their step and rejuvenate them, says Christina Chartrand, vice president of training and staff development for Senior Helpers, a nationwide in-home care company.
When selecting an activity to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy and get creative with new options they might find fun and rewarding.
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.
Use these ideas as a springboard. You know your loved one best. What did they enjoy when they were younger? 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. They may not hear those questions very often. You may get some resistance, so just say with a smile that it would make you very happy to do this with them. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.