Benefits of Outdoor Activities for the Elderly
Outdoor activities can improve mental health, enhance relationships, reduce feelings of isolation, and contribute to your overall health. Learn more, and explore exciting new ways to make the most of the outdoors.
Think about all the period TV shows and historical movies where people head “out to the country” to spend quality time outdoors, and modern-day scenes where characters step outside to get some “fresh air.”
The beneficial qualities—both physical and psychological—of spending time outdoors are undeniable in real life as well! This is true when we’re kids, when we’re adults, and maybe more than ever when we reach senior status. For the elderly, engaging in outdoor activities is a time-honored way of improving mental health, enhancing relationships, reducing feelings of isolation, encouraging energy, speeding up recovery, lowering stress, fighting depression and anxiety, and contributing to general overall health.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of outdoor activities for the elderly and explore some popular options.
Positive Effects of Outdoor Activities for Seniors
There’s a term known as “biophilia,” which is a fancy way of saying humans have a proven and innate connection to Mother Nature and other living beings. Studies have shown that regular outdoor physical activity provides a number of health benefits for the elderly.
Exercise in general has a proven positive impact on sleep, which combined with fresh air in the outdoors improves a range of health aspects. Here are some of the primary benefits of outdoor activities for those of retirement age.
Better Overall Health
By sheer virtue of going outside, you’re not allowing yourself to be a “couch potato” who spends too many hours in front of the TV, often in isolation. Keeping active means you won’t suffer as much muscle mass loss, you’ll improve your “wind” (aka conditioning) and thus not be so quick to feel out of breath, you’ll be better able to support your heart, combat symptoms of arthritis and other diseases, and generally improve the way you feel in every way.
Improvements in Mental Health
Spending time alone and inside can lead to increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and being disconnected from the world. If you’re out and about, either alone or with a companion, you’re going to run into other people, see community members as they’re going about their daily routines, and likely connect with others, even if just by saying “hello.” Whether you’re up for a bike ride or you’re more suited to a leisurely walk, sitting on the front porch, or grabbing a meal at your favorite restaurant patio, there’s a better chance of enjoying positive interactions when you regularly connect with others in social outdoor settings.
Indoor activities and exercise are perfectly fine, especially when the weather isn’t friendly. But we all know that spending time outdoors in the fresh air and beautiful weather provides a sense of wellbeing, and can help you enjoy being part of your wider community.
It Boosts Your Vitamin D Intake
Here’s an interesting fact: you can’t store a reserve of Vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D should be replenished and older adults can benefit from additional consumption.
Obviously, you won’t want to spend too much time in the sun, especially on hot summer days (it should be noted you can still absorb Vitamin D if you’re wearing sunscreen). Just a few minutes per day of direct sunlight will provide your daily requirement of Vitamin D. Also, Vitamin D assists your body in absorbing calcium, which means you’re strengthening your nails, teeth, bones and muscles. Not bad for just a few minutes in the sun!
Enjoy Abundant Energy
Spending time outdoors can be invigorating, making you feel more alive, stronger, and giving you a greater amount of energy. Studies have shown that spending just an hour or so a day in an outside environment can lead to improved attention span, better memory, and greater resilience when dealing with illness.
Your immune system will also benefit, making you better equipped to cope with the flu and common colds.
It Makes Recovery Easier
Engaging in outdoor activities can improve your ability to recover from injury, surgery, and other health setbacks.
Often, relaxation in the fresh air is a perfect recipe, especially for recovering from mental exhaustion or trauma. Whether physical or emotional, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional to see if outdoor activities can be a part of your recovery plan.
While a connection to the outdoors can certainly be therapeutic, it is certainly only one element of recovery or sustainability. For example, many seniors may have unique needs that impact their abilities, requiring assistance and support. This includes visual impairments. You can learn more about living a better life as a senior with our full slate of resources, including our article “How Vision Loss Affects Quality of Life & Functional Ability in Seniors.”
What Outdoor Activities Are Good for Seniors?
As always, it’s best to consult with your physician before undertaking any new routines, including outdoor activities. Some of us can partake in more robust activities than others. Here are some great ways to spend time outdoors.
Gardening has long been one of the most popular outdoor endeavors for seniors. It’s a wonderful way to maintain flexibility and strength—and if you’re into vegetable gardening, you can improve your diet, and share your bounty with friends, loved ones and neighbors. There are even gardening groups and clubs you can join.
There’s no better or easier way to get outside and absorb the great outdoors, whether you’re up for a hike in the woods or just a casual stroll around the block.
Music, Movies, and Theater
When the weather is pleasant, many communities have outdoor music, movies and theater presentations. Take a seat and enjoy the show while soaking in the fresh air!
Get a pair of binoculars, a bird-watching guide and a notebook, to keep track of your discoveries as you engage in bird watching. Even in city and suburban surroundings, there are many different types of birds to be found.
Outdoor Markets, Craft Shows, and Flea Markets
Browsing at “pop-up” markets and flea markets is a great way to pass the time while out and about. Craft shows offer seniors great opportunities to learn new skills and participate.
Bring a basket, a few treats, a blanket, and enjoy the day!
You can enhance your walks or other outdoor excursions by taking up photography, whether you use an old-fashioned camera or the amazing lenses available with today’s smart phones.
Sign up for a class in outdoor yoga or tai-chai and enjoy the benefits of social interaction and exercise.
Join a Senior Living Community and Enjoy More Outdoor Activities
It can be daunting to try new outdoor activities, especially for those who have experienced physical and/or mental health setbacks. Assisted Living Communities offer the best solution for those looking for a more fulfilling lifestyle; they organize any number of social outdoor activities, for you to create lasting memories. Referah Family Connection Agents can help you or your loved one find a community that has activities designed for fulfillment, growth, and health benefits. Talk with us today to find a community near you!