Rates of social isolation among seniors are high, especially seniors who experience mobility problems, hearing loss, and depression. The fact is, however, that getting outside of the house, and especially into nature, can do wonders for improving health outcomes and enhancing overall well-being.
Benefits of Getting Outside
New scientific research has found specifically that exposure to green space reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, and premature death. “Green space” includes everything from undeveloped land with natural vegetation, like a farm or hiking trail, to urban green spaces, like parks and roof gardens. Contact with the bacteria and other pathogens found in nature can also play a role in strengthening your immune system and reducing systemic inflammation in your body.
If you’re looking for fun outings to do this fall that will get you out of the house and into nature, don’t miss this quick list:
Many in the U.S. are asking when exactly their local foliage is going to change color as high temperatures and extra moisture this year have delayed many landscapes from taking on their normal autumn hues of orange, red, purple, and gold. That means, however, that folks on the east and northwest coasts still have an opportunity to view Mother Nature at her peak fall foliage in November.
Try Forest Bathing
Have you heard of the latest trend coming out of Japan, forest bathing? While it literally sounds like taking a bath in the forest, the name is less literal and truly just gets at the heart of the therapeutic benefits forests have to offer. Immersing yourself in a lush natural environment implores you to engage all your senses and seek solitude among the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest.
Take a Hike
Burn calories, build strength and exercise your balance and coordination skills all with a simple hike. Not only does hiking get you outdoors and into the throes of nature, but science has also shown that walking in general can boost your creativity and attentiveness. Enhance your hike by asking a friend to join you or hitting the trail with a community group that plans hiking trips together.
Visit a Farm
Even if you payed a visit to the apple orchard in September or the pumpkin patch in October, there is still time to handpick other local produce for your kitchen. Search online to find “pick-your-own” farms near where you live and head down with your friends or family to harvest fresh ingredients for your upcoming meals.
Join an Outdoor Charity Event
Tons of charities organize outdoor events during the final weeks of fall before the weather gets too cold. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving walk-a-thon or an early Christmas parade, there are plenty of ways to get involved with charities you care about whether you are walking or running in the event or volunteering.
Attend a Farmers Market
Did you know that in addition to fruits and vegetables, farmers markets carry foods like meat, eggs, bread, cheese, and local artisan goods (think gifts, sweets, etc)? You might be pleasantly surprised by your local farmer’s market, especially if it’s a cool brisk morning and the hot cocoa and apple cider vendors are out!
Before cold winter weather drives your service efforts indoors, seek out volunteer opportunities that help you spend time outside in your community. Park and river beautification projects, house builds, trail clean-ups, community gardening, chaperoning field trips, the ideas are endless! Search for local opportunities near you with CreatetheGood.org.
Outdoor Health and Safety Reminders
While spending time among green spaces could be your ticket to improving your own health and outlook on life, you still want to be mindful of the temperature changes and inclement weather fall and winter can bring.
Weather monitoring – forecasts can change quickly so make sure to stay up-to-date on-the-go with apps from Weather.com or DarkSky which you can download to your smartphone or look up on your computer.
Using mobility assistance – if you have trouble walking or standing for extended periods of time, don’t let that keep you from enjoying the outdoors. Support yourself with mobility aids like quad canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. Power chairs and motorized scooters also provide an agile transport option for the outdoors.
Staying hydrated – cool air actually pulls moisture out of your skin, including your nose and throat. Remember to keep full water bottles in your car and on your person when you venture outside for extended periods of time.
Keeping warm – your best bet for keeping warm on cool days is to wear layers of moisture-wicking clothing and use accessories like gloves, hats, and scarves when spending time outside where the wind is blowing.