Michael McCann

Now that spring has hit, what kind of outdoor activities are good fits or ideas?

This is a great question that many life enrichment associates face throughout the spring and summer. I typically find that while communities would like to offer more outdoor programs, there is a fear of either heat, wind or the chill of the evening that prevents our residents from wanting to go outside. These fears are increased in healthcare activity settings.

There is such value to being outside that we should try to incorporate outdoor activities as much as possible. It is critical to continue to offer programming that parallels activities our residents would participate in before moving to our campuses. We should try to make the outdoors as comfortable as possible with shaded areas, gazebos, blankets and insect repellent. But ultimately, you just have to take the dive and get your residents outside to play!

What activities can be offered?

Of course gardening is always a popular, tried and true program we can offer.  Gardening offers benefits in several areas such as;

  • Social Benefits
    Whether you garden with family or friends, you can experience the strengthening of relational bonds, shared cooperative effort, and deepening reliance upon one. Gardening together can help improve your relationships with others.

  • Spiritual Benefits
    Nurturing a seedling to maturity had many spiritual lessons worth learning. Gardening provides a number of metaphors for life, connection and love.

  • Physical Benefits
    Gardening provides the necessary stimulation to engage in regular physical activity. Gardening, though hard work, provides tangible rewards for labor invested. Not only can you enjoy what the garden produces, you gain physical health by increasing your physical activity level.

  • Psychological Benefits
    One’s intellect is stimulated through work in the garden. Gardening is a full sensory experience, in which all your senses are fully engaged. In this technological age where seeing and hearing are used almost to the exclusion of our other senses, gardening has the power to awaken all the senses.

But let’s go beyond gardening.  How about a BBQ? We all love the family BBQ. When was the last time your residents were able to hear the sound of a great burger sizzling on the grill and smelling the brat as it bursts from the casing (time to take it off the fire, FYI).  Working with your dining department in a joint BBQ program could present itself as a memorable event. Take that one step further and slow-cook a whole hog in conjunction with a Hawaiian Luau and now you’re “cookin.’”

The programming is only limited by your imagination. Find a large wall outside, and cover with a white sheet and now you can do an outdoor movie. Invite families to come out and interject some intergenerational programming as everyone loves movies. Old family-friendly films such as Ghostbusters or Star Wars work, or choose something newer, like Frozen.

Book some entertainment to perform outside. Most communities and park districts have outdoor concerts in the park you can participate in, but you could always develop your own series of outdoor shows. An antique car show working with one of the local car groups could be a great lead into a sock hop.

I have found that once your residents are engaged in a fun activity that provides social interaction and layers in the dimensions of wellness, they will quickly stop worrying about the weather and enjoy the event and great memories you help create.

Michael McCann, MS, is the director of lifestyles for Friendship Senior Options. He can be reached at [email protected]