When it comes to pursuing a lifestyle that is about authentic independent living, seniors sometimes forget one of their biggest allies — Mother Nature. Spending time outdoors has its own inherent health benefits. Yet it also lends itself to the kinds of socializing and physical activity that mark the true cornerstones of purposeful living.
Soaking in the Benefits
There’s nothing like stepping outside to clear out the ol’ mental cobwebs. But the benefits you may be feeling from that evening stroll or morning coffee on the patio aren’t all in your head. There are health benefits associated with spending more time outside.
Recent studies have shown what you might already consider to be common sense: fresh air is good for you. Specifically, spending time in blue and green spaces can refresh the mind and lift your spirits. Given that most of nature is either the green of grassy areas and woodlands, or the blue of lakes, oceans and fountains, it’s easy to see why the great outdoors is a critical component of purposeful living. Sounds of birdsong and of moving water have also been found to have a calming, restorative effect.
The health benefits of fitting time outdoors into your independent living plan are myriad. Vitamin D from sunlight exposure is crucial for building immunity and sharpening mental acuity. Just 15 minutes outdoors each day gives seniors much of the Vitamin D they need.
Of course, the energizing effect of being outdoors can also inspire seniors to help meet their health goals. It’s often a lot more fun to take a walk in a pretty park than it is to climb aboard a treadmill. That’s especially true if there are friends to share the excursion with.
Of course, Mother Nature offers solitude when you need it. But outdoor activities also present a wealth of opportunities to reconnect with other people. Here are just a few great ways to pair getting fresh air with making new friends and reconnecting with old ones:
- Crafty gatherings. Whether it’s “yarn bomb” knitting parties or sign decorating, outdoor group activities that also benefit the community make great opportunities for purposeful living. Outdoor classes are more plentiful than you might think, whether it’s an “en plein air” painting or making baskets from gathered materials.
- Biking or hiking excursions. Look for clubs in your area geared to your age group and fitness level. You might be ready for a multi-night bike/camping adventure, or a more sedate “stroll and lunch” activity. Whatever your interest, there’s bound to be a group that you can join to make it safer and more enjoyable.
- Workout buddies. In good weather, an outdoor class or a workout partner provides inspiration to keep moving while enjoying a literal change of scenery. Check out opportunities for “yoga in the park” sessions, water aerobics, or just a few friends to walk an outdoor track with.
- Gardening groups. If your independent living center or neighborhood doesn’t already have a community garden, it may be time for you to propose one! Having your own plot in a community garden gives you a sense of achievement, along with fresh produce or flowers to bring home. And you can usually count on finding a fellow gardener to chat with whenever the mood strikes.
Pictured: Beautiful flowers planted near the Deupree House sign by residents.
How Retirement Communities Harness Mother Nature
You’ll know an independent living neighborhood is the right fit for you if it offers a variety of ways to enjoy the outdoors. Look for communities that incorporate leisure spaces like balconies attached to residential units and feature gardens, pathways, and courtyards in common areas. Outdoor seating areas that offer shade, comfort, and the chance to socialize are also a key indication that nature is an important factor in the retirement community’s wellness and social planning.
Ask whether there is an opportunity for your own garden plot if that is one of the outdoor activities you especially enjoy. In addition, a unit that offers an opportunity to enjoy pots of flowers and veggies on the balcony or bird feeders in the window can make an enormous difference.
Classes and outings which incorporate outdoor components are also a plus, whenever weather permits. Access to walking areas without having to drive to them is another plus. In addition, bus trips to popular hiking trails, or to a “picnic in the park” spot, all make a big difference when it comes to purposeful living in fresh air.
Unsure what else to look for when it comes to wellness and outdoor activities offered at your possible new home? Download our free guide to learn more about what to look for in a retirement community. This resource will help you identify your own priorities for positive aging, including access to outdoor activities, other enriching events, independence, and proximity to family.