Outdoor Safety for Older Adults

Published on July 4, 2024

A recent study by the University of York in the U.K. found that time in nature was an effective way to improve mental health, even for people with a history of mental illness. Another study found that hearing birdsong alleviates depression, stress, and anxiety. And you don’t have to go on a long hike in the forest to reap the benefits of nature. Gardening, conservation activities, and even “forest bathing” can be beneficial.

“One of the key ideas that might explain why nature-based activities are good for us is that they help to connect us with nature in meaningful ways that go beyond passively viewing nature,” said study author Dr. Peter Coventry.

Spending time in nature is particularly important for older adults. Older adults who have more exposure to nature report a stronger sense of belonging and community than those who don’t. Time in nature improves the health of older adults and helps give them a sense of purpose.

Safety first

Take steps to make sure your outdoor adventures are safe. Check the weather before you head out. Older adults are particularly susceptible to extreme temperatures, so it’s important to change or adapt plans if the weather dictates.

Opt for well-maintained, less strenuous trails to help prevent falls and injuries while still enjoying the benefits of nature. Many parks offer a range of trails from flat and paved paths to more challenging hikes. Also, consider visiting parks during off-peak times to avoid crowds and enjoy a more relaxed pace.

Bring water with you, even if you plan only a short stroll. Dehydration can sneak up quickly, especially in hot or dry conditions, and it’s much easier to stay hydrated than to recover from dehydration. Don’t forget to take regular breaks to sip some water and rest, especially if you’re out in the sun.

Wear bright colors or reflective gear to ensure you are seen by others, particularly if you are in areas shared by cyclists or motorists. If you enjoy early morning or late evening walks, a flashlight or a headlamp can help light your path and avoid potential hazards.

Always let someone know your plans, especially if you’re venturing into a remote area or plan to be out for an extended period. In those cases, carry a basic first aid kit, a fully charged cell phone, and some form of identification. Knowing that you are prepared for unexpected situations can make your outdoor adventure more enjoyable and stress-free.

And finally, if you can’t get out to enjoy nature, bring the outdoors inside with a potted plant or by hanging a bird feeder outside your window. Just like exercise, any amount of time spent with nature is better than nothing.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise