An Outdoor Guide for Seniors

Who says outdoor adventure is just for the young? Whether they are hiking or kayaking, playing pickleball or birdwatching, plenty of senior citizens are enjoying the outdoors. If you’ve reached your golden years and would like some tips for getting outdoors safely, then this guide is for you.

Why You Should Get Outdoors

In a recent article, AARP cited a study from Occupational & Environmental Medicine that emphasized the importance of urban residents regularly using green spaces.

Emphasis on regular use.

For residents who used green spaces 3-4 times per week, the researchers found that “the frequency of green space visits was the only type of nature exposure that showed an inverse association with medication use.”

While the effects cannot be guaranteed for everyone, there was some correlation between visiting green spaces and reducing some types of medication.

And you don’t need to travel to a national park or engage in extreme sports. A simple walk in the park is enough to reap these benefits, so long as you do it regularly.

If you would like to get outdoors but need some advice for getting started, then keep reading for a few tips on how you can safely enjoy nature as an active senior.

Choose Activities that Match Your Ability

Adventuring outdoors is often marketed as a pastime for testing limits, but one of the beauties of aging is that we come to know ourselves—both our strengths and our frailties—quite well, and we can shed those insecurities that so often endanger the young. We no longer need to prove ourselves, and this mental shift frees us to enjoy what nature has to offer in whatever way we feel comfortable.

As you consider trying an outdoor activity, be honest about your experience and your level of ability.

While it might seem disheartening to focus on your limitations, the reality is that you’ll have a much better time choosing an activity that is right for you.

If Needed, Explore Accessible Trails and Parks

Accessibility is important for any age group, and while the outdoors often evokes images of youthful extreme athleticism, parks and recreation areas now offer more accessible trails and facilities designed to accommodate individuals with mobility issues.

Depending on your level of mobility, you might look for trails that are paved, well-maintained, and equipped with benches and rest areas. These amenities will allow you to balance moderate strenuous physical activity with realistic expectations of ability.

Pack Proper Essentials

When heading outdoors, we recommend that everyone should learn about their environment and activity so they can pack the necessary gear. Your goal is to be safe and have fun, so your essentials might include the following:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Cell phone
  • Any necessary medical supplies

    Practice Safety Precautions

    The usual rules for outdoor safety apply to all age groups: know your terrain, stay hydrated, take breaks when needed, and avoid strenuous activities in extreme weather conditions.

    It’s important to remember just how quickly things can become dangerous in the outdoors if the warning signs are ignored. A hot day, while uncomfortable, can still be a good morning for a hike, but pushing limits too far can turn a warm walk into a heat exhaustion scenario.

    No one is immune to weather-related danger, but for seniors, the risks are higher as scenarios can quickly escalate.

    If an activity seems or feels too dangerous for you, you should listen to that intuition. You should feel comfortable assessing those risks and finding something that feels within your limits.

    Join Outdoor Groups or Clubs

    While some prefer a solitary outdoor experience, most people prefer to enjoy the outdoors with a friend or small group. If you’re introverted, then having a shared activity can help put people at ease and give them common topics of conversation. These activities are a great way to meet new friends and to stave off the loneliness that many in America are experiencing.

    Many cities have pivoted towards catering to active seniors, so check your local government websites and recreational organizations for activities that interest you. Cities commonly run hiking, kayaking, and pickleball groups for seniors

    If your city lacks these activities, consider making your voice heard and requesting that your local government begin offering these programs, as there is a significant demand.

    Find Friends on the Internet

    Websites like Meetup can also connect you to like-minded recreation groups. Search for your preferred activity and see what is available in your area.

    If you find a group that interests you, contact the Organizer to see who usually shows up to their meetups. Do they sound like a good fit for you? Some groups trend younger or cater to specific professional interests, which might not be a problem for you, but you should be comfortable with the other people who will likely show up.

    Consider Hiring a Guide

    Depending on the activity, you might decide to hire a professional guide for your first time out. People of all ages benefit from guided trips. A guide’s primary job is to ensure your safety. They should also make sure you have a good time and teach you the basics of your new activity.

    The best place to find a guide is through a local outfitter. Searching for them online is the easiest way to find an outfitter, or you can call a local sporting goods store and ask the staff for a recommendation.

    Get Outside. Your Health Will Thank You.

    The most important thing to remember is that research indicates that frequent outdoor activity—including a relaxed stroll—has positive effects on physical and mental health. To experience those benefits, you must get outside and get moving.

    We hope you’ll use some of these tips to try a new outdoor activity, make a new friend, and experience the beauty that nature offers.