Aging often means slowing down, which in turn can mean we don’t get out as much as we used to. It can also mean we don’t take advantage of one of life’s greatest and most healthful gifts — nature. Even in the most urban setting, nature finds a niche and more and more, health care providers are realizing the health benefits of nature and recommending them to their patients. Sometimes known as “ecotherapy,” experiencing nature can have an abundance of positive health effects from relieving stress and fatigue to easing depression and helping cancer survivors regain their health. Here are a few easy ways to immerse yourself in nature and reap the benefits.
Take a hike (or a walk) in the park —
Locate the nearest park and make it a daily goal to take a stroll. Parks are wonderful places to experience nature and they are often available to everyone year-round. Follow walking paths through woodlots, past flower gardens and maybe even reflecting pools or ponds to get the spring back in your step. In the winter, you can still enjoy a walk while you take in the peace and quiet that comes with a blanket of snow and look for animal tracks as you go along.
Join a yoga class for seniors —
Weather permitting, many yoga classes meet outdoors to maximize the benefits of this 5,000-year-old form of mental and physical exercise. Yoga may even be offered at independent and assisted living communities making it easily accessible. Learn more about yoga for seniors in the WebMD article, “6 Yoga Poses That Age Well.”
Become a birdwatcher —
Whether you’re mobile or not, birdwatching is a great way to enjoy nature indoors or out. If you aren’t able to get around outdoors, install a bird feeder and or bird bath near a window and enjoy; No binoculars needed! For those who can hike about, consider starting a life list of birds you have seen or hope to see and get a bird guide for your region and binoculars. Keep in mind, birdwatching can be a year-round activity and one that can be done alone or with one or more friends. Learn more about the joys and possibilities of birdwatching at Audubon.org.
Garden to your heart’s delight —
Even a small garden can be a great stress reliever and provide daily opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the weather as well the bounty. Grow your own vegetables or flowers, both of which will bring a little nature indoors eventually. If you don’t have gardening space available, try container gardening for everything from strawberries to climbing vines and trellises to cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Plan a picnic —
There’s something inherently natural about enjoying a meal outdoors in a park on a blanket under the shade of a tree. But you can also spread that blanket in your own backyard. Pack your favorites like cut-up fresh vegetables for munching, cheese and crackers, sandwich wraps, and fruits like watermelon, apples or peaches. If there’s a group, adding a few picnic games can make it a real event everyone will enjoy.
Go to the zoo —
Although not available in every town and city, a trip to a zoo is a great way to spend a day outdoors, learning about animals from nearby and around the world. Even if you never quite made it to see polar bears or tigers in their natural habitats, local zoos offer a wealth of opportunity to enjoy the next best thing. Find out just how much a trip to the zoo can do for you or a senior in your life in the Aging Care blog, “The Benefits of Visiting the Zoo with a Senior.”
Enjoy the arts outdoors —
From art shows to community theater to concerts, there are plenty of events in natural settings that are not only entertaining but can be restful too. Depending upon the area, you might find an art show on a lake bluff, a concert in a wooded park or a play on the campus of a local college. Check your community calendar and plan ahead for a great day outdoors.
Take a photography class for seniors —
No matter how mobile you are, photography is one activity that can get you outdoors and enjoying nature. With today’s digital cameras in cell phones and tablets, it’s easier than ever to become an amateur photographer with no more investment than time and energy. Even those who use wheelchairs and walkers can take great images that they can share with friends and family. Factor in the great outdoors and subjects are unlimited: Flowers, trees, birds, squirrels and other small creatures — even the clouds in the sky — offer so much opportunity to the fledgling shutterbug. If you don’t know how to begin, check out the blog, “20 Photography Tips for Beginners,” at photographylife.com.
Just be —
One of the greatest joys associated with being in nature is simply being in nature. Spending time just sitting, undisturbed, watching the natural world go about its business can be a soothing and restful respite. Even when the weather isn’t ideal, sitting near a window with a view, can also benefit health and well-being. And if the sun’s out you get the added benefit of vitamin D production, something our bodies cannot do without the sun.
Mother nature has something good to offer everyone if we just take advantage of it. Try to find a way every day to get out in nature and make the most of it for your physical and mental health.