Getting outside to enjoy Minnesota summers is good for the soul, and good for the family and friend caregivers of older adults, too.
Increased sun provides an extra boost of vitamin D. Time outdoors gives us the opportunity to slow down and follow butterflies as they flit from flower to flower, listen to birds sing from tree branches and watch amazing sunrises and sunsets each day.
Spending time outdoors is an effective way for caregivers to reduce stress and stay healthy. Connecting to nature can play an important part in overall well being.
It can be challenging (sometimes seemingly impossible) to fit time outdoors into your life when caregiving consumes every day. But you don’t have to spend hours upon hours outside. You simply need moments with nature to feel the results. Consider incorporating more nature into your life with these suggestions:
Explore on foot
Go for a walk together, either right in your neighborhood or at a new location you’ve wanted to explore. Stop often to look and listen to your surroundings.
Caring for someone who uses a wheelchair? If your own health permits, pushing a wheelchair can increase the exercise you’re getting while you enjoy being outdoors.
Plant a garden
You don’t need a lot of outdoor space to plant flowers, vegetables or herbs. Container gardening is an excellent option for small spaces and limited time. Or you can tend a plot in a community garden for an opportunity to plant your own garden and have a project to work on together outdoors among friends and neighbors.
Visit a farmers market
Supplement your own garden harvest, or your supermarket trips, with produce from the farmers market. You’ll support local farmers, try fresh and unique products and stroll outside while you do it. Search for a market near you at minnesotagrown.com.
Enjoy some fresh air
Sometimes we forget about the delights of our own backyard or neighborhood park. Try sitting in the open air, wherever it’s convenient and safe, and observe what’s happening around you. Even just a few minutes outside can be restorative.
Experience a National Park
If you’re thinking about going further afield, an America the Beautiful pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 national parks and federal recreational lands.
Within the program, there are $10 lifetime passes for ages 62 and older (Senior Passes) and free passes for anyone with a permanent disability (Access Passes). Annual passes are otherwise $80 per year. For more information, visit nps.gov.
Connecting to the nature that surrounds us is powerful. Feeling the warmth of sunshine and breathing fresh air can improve your mood, bring a sense of calm, build strength in your bones and muscles and, possibly, lessen stress to improve well being — both for you and the person you care for.
No matter where you live, you can incorporate more nature into your life.
Just pick what suits you best, and enjoy that moment.
Jenny West works in caregiving and aging services at FamilyMeans (familymeans.org), an active member of the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative (caregivercollaborative.org).