There are a number of mental and physical hurdles that prevent seniors from getting outside. Depending on a loved one’s abilities, even a short excursion can take a great deal of energy. If you are caring for someone with mobility issues, the simple act of going outdoors can be a daunting one. Nevertheless, breathing a little fresh air and changing up one’s surroundings can do more than help diminish boredom and complacency. Studies show that people who get outside on a daily basis are less likely to have a wide variety of health problems, like chronic pain or sleep loss, and are more likely to remain active than those who stay indoors.
Tips for Getting a Senior Outside
If your loved one is resistant to the idea of going outside, start small and be gentle with your encouragement. There are plenty of ways for seniors to enjoy time outdoors without having to travel far or overexert themselves. Use these ideas to help a loved one restore their desire for fresh air and possibly ease into regular outings.
- Suggest that they sit by an open window for a few minutes in the mornings or evenings to read the newspaper or enjoy a cup of tea. The feeling of fresh air on their face may inspire them to spend more time outside.
- If your loved one’s home has a covered patio or porch or a fenced in back yard, get them started on spending time out there. They may feel more comfortable if they’re able to “get out” without the watchful eyes of neighbors or strangers.
- Set up a bird feeder within view from a window or a porch so they can do some bird watching. If it’s a hit, you can enlist their help with keeping the feeder full and suggest other locations, like a nearby park, to catch glimpses of other species.
- Consider planting some flowers or a small garden. Certain plants can attract butterflies, and new seedlings are exciting to watch as they grow and change each day. The senior won’t have to go far to get in touch with nature and admire the blooms. This renewed interest can segue into a trip to the local garden center for new plants or an outing to a nearby botanical garden.
- Even a short jaunt to the mailbox each day will provide a few minutes of fresh air. This small addition to a senior’s routine can help them feel useful and improve their coordination, strength and stamina.
- Get creative and find ways to incorporate their favorite indoor hobbies and activities with the outdoors. For example, if they enjoy art or crafts, set up their supplies near an open window or on the porch. If they have always loved listening to music, find outdoor concerts or performances in their area. If family is important to them, invite their grandchildren over to play outside or host a casual backyard picnic or barbecue.
Pick the Right Equipment
Safely navigating inside and outside the home is a crucial factor to consider, since the fear of falling can be a powerful deterrent to getting around. Even if a senior would enjoy leaving the house, they may not feel that all of the effort and preparation is worth the hassle. It is common for embarrassment and frustration to surface when going out requires the assistance of another person or a mobility aid, such as a cane or rollator.
If your loved one has difficulty walking or transferring, work with them and an occupational or physical therapist to find the right mobility product to help them stay active. An occupational therapist is trained to provide comprehensive solutions for seniors with mobility challenges. Modifications to the home environment can be made to accommodate mobility equipment and seniors can re-learn daily routines with the assistance of a supportive device. Look for a device that provides the support and stability they need and is easy to use and transport.
Many seniors view mobility aids as a nuisance, but they are intended to extend independence and improve safety. Emphasize this fact. Even if a senior is wheelchair bound, they can get outside with some planning and the right equipment.
Many caregivers wish to enrich their loved ones’ lives with activities and outings. This can be difficult, if not impossible, when seniors retreat into the comfort of their homes. Remember to keep your expectations realistic. Some older individuals were never keen on spending time outside, even in their younger days. Sitting near an open window may be plenty outdoorsy as far as they’re concerned. In other cases, a caregiver may need to use ample reassurance and a hint of tough love to get a loved one to step outside their comfort zone—literally.
If getting out simply is not an option—whether it is because they are unable or unwilling—then bring the outdoors to them. Purchase some easy-to-maintain indoor plants or keep a fresh vase of flowers in the room where they spend most of their time. Open a window or two for a little while each day, and try to keep shades and blinds open to let in plenty of natural sunlight. These efforts will keep both of your spirits up.