An outing to a park has many advantages for an elderly person. It gets them out of the house and out in the fresh air, it offers interaction with people of all ages and it’s a good way to get exercise. But not all parks are created equal, and some are more senior-friendly than others.
So, before you take your loved one or client to a park, check whether it’s set up properly. Some to things to look out for include:
Paths in parks should be relatively flat (no more than a 2% grade) for seniors in wheelchairs or using walkers. They should be wide enough that an elderly person will not be forced off the path by a pedestrian or biker coming in the other direction. Spaces between paved and unpaved areas should be small so that a wheelchair or cane will not get stuck. There should also be benches close enough together so that it’s always easy to take a break and rest.
The elderly are especially vulnerable to the sun and heat. Parks should be sufficiently shady, but not so shady that they feel closed off. Too many trees can cause the park to be cold and unpleasant. And an open park with visibility is less likely to harbor gangs of teenagers up to no good.
A well-maintained park is an elderly-friendly park. Uneven surfaces, overgrown plants and trash scattered on the ground are all hazards for seniors. You should see park personnel regularly maintaining the grounds, including gardening and picking up garbage.
Lots of Variety
It can get boring to stare at the same scene day after day. A park which offers variety in flowers and shrubbery, types of playgrounds and design elements, is a park which can be visited often and for long periods. You can choose a bench in a different area each time and enjoy the diverse human and natural scenery.
July is Parks and Recreation Month, likely because kids are out of school and families are spending lots of time outdoors. But if you live in an area that gets very hot in the summer, you’ll want to limit your park excursions to early morning or evening this time of year. It’s still worth the effort though, for the change of pace, the enjoyment of nature and a reason to get moving.
See you at the park!