Getting Fresh Air is Good for Everyone
Spending time outside isn’t just an enjoyable experience – it’s also an important component in maintaining your physical and mental health. In fact, getting back to nature is an age-old trick to “staying young.” The benefits are numerous:
Better air quality
A boost in
Improved mood & behavior
But it isn’t as easy for everyone to access the outdoors. For those with limited mobility, those managing pain, and those with impaired vision, going outside can feel more like a chore than a healthy break. Join our care team as we explore a few easy ways to help your aging friends and family get outside and enjoy the summer!
Start Off Small – A Garden, A Patio, or Even an Open Window
For people with severely limited mobility, getting outside may feel too overwhelming. Sadly, many seniors and people with disabilities that use wheelchairs or other mobility aids don’t have the same opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Getting some practice by starting small can really help build the confidence and skills needed to explore farther.
Did you know that people who spend two hours a week or more outdoors report being in better health and having a greater sense of well-being than people who don’t get out at all? (MENE)
Start by finding ways to make it easier to get out:
- Place threshold ramps on your exterior doors to limit tripping hazards and to help wheelchairs get outside more easily.
- Clean up any broken concrete or walkways outside to prevent dangerous falls or damage to mobility aids.
- Create a safe space outside with a sunshade or umbrella, access to a phone or communication device, and water to keep your loved ones protected
Next, if your loved one can’t go beyond your yard or patio, create areas of interest to make going outside more engaging. Consider:
- Adding bird feeders or a bird bath to attract small wildlife
- Installing an elevated and accessible garden bed and let your loved one plant their own garden
- Place a table and comfortable chair outside so your loved one can craft, play games, do a puzzle, or even eat outside
Getting Beyond Your Backyard
If your aging loved one is feeling a bit more confident outside, look for accessible outdoor spaces in your community and beyond to explore together. This could look like a gentle walk or hike, spending time near the water, or even relaxing and people watching at a park. For those feeling even more adventurous, there are many state and federal parks with accessible attractions and even camping!
When you’re researching, keep an eye out for the following:
- Wheelchair accessible paths (this is important, even for those who do not use wheelchairs because these paths are likely to be well-groomed and free from tripping hazards)
- Water resources like water fountains and water bottle filling stations
- Wi-Fi or good cell phone reception to ensure you can contact emergency services easily
- Consistent seating opportunities like park benches to allow for rest
- On-site support like park rangers
To find accessible outdoor spaces in your area, check out these resources:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forrest Service Interactive Map (be sure to select “accessibility info” to see all accessible locations.
- Recreation.gov (be sure to select “I need accessible camping” above the search bar)
- TrailLink’s Wheelchair Accessible Trail Finder
- The National Park Service’s Accessibility in National Parks List
Adding the Outdoors to Your Routine
We know getting to a national or state park or planning a camping trip isn’t easy. It’s okay to leave those trips as a once-in-a-while treat. But we do encourage you to find ways to help your aging friends and loved ones simply get outside more. Even if it’s just for a chat and a cup of coffee. A little bit of fresh air and a new view can do wonders!
If you or a loved one needs help managing daily tasks like getting outdoors, doing chores, or running errands, consider hiring an in-home caregiver. Our non-medical in-home caregivers are experienced with mobility devices, assisting in chair and bed transfers, and helping individuals maintain independence. Contact your local ameriCARE and get matched with the best caregiver for your family today!