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Seniors Can Adapt Outdoor Activities to Meet Their Needs

For safety as well as companionship, it would be great for your father to garden or enjoy any outdoor activities with a family member, friend or companion.

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Aging is often associated with the loss of activities and interests that seniors no longer can continue. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With adaptation and support, older adults may be able to do what they’ve always loved to do.

Q: Dad, who’s 78, used to be such an avid outdoorsman, but because of physical ailments, he can’t do many of the hobbies that he’s done before like hunting, fishing and gardening. Are there other ways to keep him active doing the things he loves to do?

The warmer days and increased activities of spring, summer and fall can lead to fun times for people who love the outdoors. This time of year, however, can also can be frustrating for seniors who are accustomed to spending a lot of time outside, but can’t anymore because of physical problems. There are ways, though, to adapt activities so that hobbies can still be enjoyed in different ways.

For instance, since your dad likes to hunt, why not suggest that he volunteer to help with a hunter safety education program for children or a program that teaches kids how to fish. If your dad has expertise in these areas, he could even become a certified instructor. Contact your local games and parks commission or natural resources offices to find out how he can be involved.

Depending on his level of activity, there may also be volunteer openings at an area state park or through the U.S. forest service. Many parks have part-time or volunteer indoor or outdoor jobs that would keep him connected with nature.

At home, your dad can find easier ways to continue to enjoy the hobby of gardening. Container gardening is growing in popularity, and many of the vegetables, herbs and flowers that your father liked to grow in a garden can be cultivated in containers that are easier to maintain. Call your local extension service or arthritis foundation, or visit an area gardening store, to learn more about container gardening. Also, various adaptive tools are now available to help seniors who have arthritis and other physical ailments.

Remind your dad to drink plenty of water whenever he is outside, even for a short time, and to use adequate sunscreen. He should also stretch and warm up before beginning any physical activity, and invest in a good pair of gloves. Gardening and other outdoor activities are best done in the early morning or late afternoon, to avoid the hottest times of the day.

For safety as well as companionship, it would be great for your father to garden or enjoy any outdoor activities with a family member, friend or companion. If you can’t be around, consider hiring a professional caregiver. The local Home Instead® office, for example, matches seniors with CAREGiversSM of similar interests, and many enjoy outdoor fun.

Last revised: August 23, 2011

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