Getting Outdoors with Limited Mobility
The outdoors aren’t called the great outdoors for no reason. Countless studies, research, as well as the sum total of human experience throughout history have all pointed to the same conclusion time and time again, which is that getting outside and taking in nature and all our world’s natural splendor has real, tangible benefits. Spending time outside can improve our mood and mental health, boost the strength of our immune system, lower blood pressure, and even shorten time spent healing after surgery or a significant injury.
And these benefits are enjoyed just as well by older adults. According to a study by the Journal of Aging and Health, adults over the age of 70 who spent time outdoors reported having better mobility, less difficulty sleeping, and less pain overall, when compared to homebodies.
This can, however, be a catch 22 for some older adults. If going outside can improve your mobility, how does one get outside and enjoy nature when their mobility is limited to begin with? The good news is that there are plenty of activities to enjoy outside, and no matter what level of mobility you may possess currently, there’s bound to be at least some things you can do.
The most important thing to remember when getting outdoors is to do so safely. If you need a mobility device to get around, consulting your physician or other care provider about heavier duty versions meant for the outdoors is a great first step. Walkers with larger wheels or wheelchairs purpose built for uneven surfaces are available, and a great idea. Many parks have wheelchair accessible trails, which will have smoother elevation changes and broader paths. If you’re unsure about the availability, researching options in your area can give you some choices to act on. Most parks and even hiking trails will have information available, or user reviews, detailing how wheelchair or walker accessible a trail is.
If you don’t feel ready to tackle a trail, don’t worry. There’s plenty of activities you can enjoy outside while still staying mostly stationary. Getting together with friends and family for a picnic in the park, or anywhere with a nice view is a great idea. Bird watching is a fun activity that just requires a pair of binoculars and a field guide to birds. Many cities have public gardens or arboretums, curated and manicured displays of flora that you can leisurely make your way through. Fishing is another activity you can enjoy without much movement too. Simply head to the shore and cast your line, and you can sit and stare out over the water while you wait for a bite.
It is, of course, not necessary to do an activity at all to enjoy the outdoors. You can simply go outside. Visit with friends, family, or neighbors on a porch or patio. Head out to the park and take your book, knitting, or sewing and find a nice park bench. Download a movie on your phone or tablet and watch it outside with headphones.