By the age of 75, one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. That’s unfortunate, because physical activity increases longevity, enhances strength and stamina, and generally improves the quality of life for older people.
Fortunately, families can ease the pain of social isolation and improve the health of aged family members by visiting them more often and taking them on day trips. Here are 10 great ideas for day trips with your loved ones.
Regular physical activity has several important health benefits for seniors. According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) regular physical activity:
- lowers the risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture;
- reduces the risk of heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer and diabetes;
- alleviates anxiety and depression; and
- reduces joint swelling and decreases the pain of arthritis
Social Isolation and Depression among Seniors
A recent study by Aged & Community Services Australia found that an alarming number of seniors live alone. For those aged 75-84 years of age, about 30% live in a lone-person household. That number jumps to 35.2% for those aged 85 years and older. Older women were significantly more likely to live alone than older men.
Many seniors in Australia are suffering from depression, either because they live alone and are socially isolated, or because they are isolated from family and friends in residential facilities:
“The precise rates of depression in older people are not yet known. However, it is thought that between 10 and 15 per cent of Australians over the age of 65 experience depression. Rates of depression among people living in residential aged care facilities are believed to be much higher than the general population – around 35 per cent.”
10 great ideas for day trips with your loved one
- Visit a museum: museums abound in Australia, with more than 1,000 in 1,276 locations. You can target your visit to your aged family member’s interests, like art museums, historic properties, or science and social history museums. Consult a list of museums in your area to find one that interests your senior family member. It will improve their mood and give them some much-needed exercise.
- Take your loved one on a shopping trip: walking around a local shopping mall or visiting local businesses in the centre of town is a great way to reconnect with your loved one, see things you both want to see, and get much-needed physical activity. You could make a purchase which leads to further social activity, like a laptop computer equipped with Skype, membership in club or organisation, or arts and crafts supplies.
- Take a walking tour through the park: most areas have a local park where you can explore walking trails together in good weather. You can choose a park which appeals to your loved one’s interests - for example, if he or she is a nature lover, you could visit a nature preserve, botanical garden, conservatory, or one of Australia’s 500 national parks. Be sure to select a venue which doesn’t require overly strenuous physical exertion.
- Attend a concert together: music stirs powerful emotions and inspires the imagination, two things your aged loved one might sorely need. Be sure to consult with your loved one before buying tickets: you don’t want to take a classical music lover to a rock concert. If grandchildren have school concerts or recitals, invite your senior loved one to attend. After the concert, discuss what you both liked most about the performance.
- Go on a picnic: you could have a picnic in the backyard or take basket and blanket to the local park. Get your loved one involved in the planning and food preparation. When you’re finished eating, go for a short walk through the neighbourhood or around the park.
- Visit a flea market or yard sale: flea markets and yard sales aren’t just about finding great buys also social activities and a chance to reconnect with people in the neighbourhood. If possible, settle on a purchase that will be memorable and which your loved one can take home or back to his or her residential facility.
- Attend a garden party: you can organise your own garden party or attend one being hosted by family or friends. If you organise your own, feature things which match your loved one’s interests. For example, they might appreciate seeing old-fashioned tablecloths, china or other items similar to those they used in younger years, or they might enjoy a fancy tea party.
- Go on a boat ride: if you or a friend has your own boat, schedule a day outing on the river, bay or ocean. You could also rent a boat for the day - if you do, choose a pontoon boat as these are easier to access for those which physical disabilities. Finally, you could schedule a river boat excursion.
- Attend a craft show: a craft show can also be a learning experience, as many vendors are more then eager to share their knowledge. You can also use this as an opportunity to stir interest in a new hobby, like knitting, quilting or jewellery making.
- Schedule a visit with old friends: as people age, they tend to lose touch with some of the most important people in their lives, especially if they live in a residential facility. Plan a reunion with one or more of your loved one’s best friends, at their home or at a local restaurant or dinner theatre. Create a plan to keep the relationship going after your visit, through phone calls, correspondence or subsequent visits.
New experiences and exercise are critically important to the physical and psychological well-being of seniors, and family members and friends can take some simple steps to ensure their senior loved ones remain active and vital. Skilled care staff can play an important role in ensuring that seniors in their charge maintain healthy relationships and stay engaged with family and friends. To learn more about the ways we can help you improve senior care, contact us today.