Embarking on a new adventure often begins with a single step outside your door, especially for older adults seeking the enriching embrace of nature. Picture this: a serene morning, with the sun peeking through the trees, as Eleanor, at a vibrant 72, laces up her hiking boots. She’s ready for her weekly exploration of the local trails, a ritual that not only invigorates her spirit but also keeps her physically fit. Like Eleanor, many seniors are rediscovering the joy and numerous benefits of engaging in outdoor activities.
Outdoor pursuits offer more than just physical exercise; they are gateways to mental well-being, social interaction, and a deeper appreciation for the environment. For older adults, activities like jogging, hiking, or even an outdoor movie night can dramatically improve quality of life. These experiences don’t just keep one physically active but also mentally sharp, socially engaged, and emotionally fulfilled.
From the simple joy of a jog that doubles as a neighborhood tour, to the thrill of discovering new trails, the options for embracing the outdoors are limitless. Whether it’s through the lens of a camera capturing the beauty of a sunrise, the satisfaction of grilling a perfect steak, or the laughter shared over a game of pickleball, the great outdoors beckons with a promise of adventure, relaxation, and connection.
In this article, we explore a variety of outdoor activities suited for older adults, each offering unique benefits and pleasures. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or just looking to dip your toes into something new, there’s something here for everyone. So, let’s step outside and embrace the multitude of experiences waiting under the open sky.
1. Let’s Go Jogging!
I know, jogging isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of the best exercises that you can do at any age and is particularly helpful for older adults. According to the US Department of Health and Human Service, Aerobic exercise helps you control your weight, build muscle strength, reduce body fat, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, build endurance, stave off depression and stress, increase energy and self-esteem, improve sleep and live longer
On top of just generally being good for you, jogging can be fun! It’s a great way to explore your neighborhood, your local park, or really any beautiful part of your city. You don’t need to feel like you’re in a race to enjoy jogging as an outdoor activity, you can go at your own pace. Use it as an opportunity to get back out there. Enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, some greenery or beautiful architecture. Jogging can be a meditation and an exercise for your mind as much as it is for the body.
2. Go For A Hike
If jogging along a flat surface in your neighborhood doesn’t excite you, consider going for a hike. This may be one the most popular outdoor activities. Hiking gives you a chance to forget about those days stuck at home, watching Netflix documentaries about other people exploring the world.
Even if you don’t live near mountains, nearly any city has a nature reserve a short drive away and it makes for a splendid morning or afternoon safely outdoors. If you are new to hiking and not sure where to go, download the Alltrails app. It’s like Yelp for hiking trails and will show you all of the great places nearby for you to start your adventures. Just don’t forget a bottle of water and your sunscreen!
3. Outdoor Movie Night!
Sick of sitting on the couch, but not feeling ready to venture to the movie theater? Consider throwing outdoor movie nights all summer long for you and your friends. You see, not all outdoor activities need to be exercise!
If you or one of your family members has a nice back yard, just hang a white sheet on the side of the house, set up some chairs, pop some popcorn or maybe bake some brownies, and purchase an outdoor projector like this one for under $100 (the price of about 6 movie tickets) and become your own outdoor, socially distanced, CDC safe movie theater.
4. Take Up Photography
It seems like everyone is a photographer these days with their iPhones and Google Pixels, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Sure, it’s great to have access to your phone as a camera for life’s little moments, but the lost art of holding a real camera and taking stunning photos has been lost, but not forgotten. The best part of photography? It’s low energy and high excitement.
You don’t need the best camera out there to start up as an amateur photographer. You can start out with a lower tier Digital SLR from any of the top brands (just search for DSLR on Amazon or head to your local camera store) and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying this summer outdoors with a collection of great shots to show for it. You can even make it a goal to focus on a certain subject matter and print a coffee table book of your work and gift it to your family for the holidays.
5. Get Serious About BBQ
Grilling might not seem like a true outdoor activity, it might be a bit more utilitarian for most of us – just a way to cook some hamburgers or chicken breasts – but if you get real about this activity, you can easily turn it into a weekend hobby along with your other family members and friends.
You’ve likely saved some cash this year while you stayed away from restaurants and bars, so maybe it’s time you upgrade your grill or even look into one of the newfangled electronic smokers that everyone seems to be loving. Buy a couple BBQ cookbooks, watch youtube videos on how to make the BBQ sauce from world famous Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, Texas, and invite your friends over for a weekly feast. Let’s file this one under “most delicious outdoor activities”.
6. Sports! Sports! Sports!
I hear it every day and thinking it myself: “my knees aren’t what they used to be.” But that’s no reason that you can’t get back out there and play some sports. Perhaps we aren’t quite ready to consider full contact sports like rugby or football. Maybe soccer is a bit too strenuous, but there are plenty of great sports that won’t cause us to keel over in aches and pains.
Tennis is a great option as you can set up games with just one or two other people. Maybe even get yourself a basketball and set up some 2 on 2 tournaments with your family.
Looking for a sport that you may have never played before? Pickleball is possibly the fastest growing sport in America right now and is a stellar outdoor activity. It’s a combo of tennis, ping pong, and badminton. And also it’s super fun and there are courts opening up all over. Do a local Google search for it.
7. Build Something
Crammed indoors over the past year, many of us have taken up different crafting projects. We’ve been painting and puzzling, sewing and tinkering with house projects.
Have you been thinking about buying a gazebo for the back yard? Are you looking to get a playhouse for the kids or grandkids? Why not invite a couple people over, hang out in the garage and the front yard and build something from scratch! Building things can be a great outdoor activity and with all of the guides on youtube or on blogs, with just a few tools and some lumber, nearly anything can be accomplished this summer.
8. Plant A Garden
One of the best outdoor activities is gardening. This is a tried and true way to get outdoors and now that you can invite some close friends over to spend time in your yard, perhaps its time to get down and dirty in order to beautify things. Gardening can be extremely relaxing and the results are relatively fast and awe inspiring. Whether you’re into colorful flowers or tasty vegetables, gardening is fun and great for the whole family. (Maybe team up with the other person in the house who wants to build something, and create a raised vegetable garden!)
9. Go People Watching
Typically this might not be on my list of favorite outdoor activities, but after the time we once spent in lock down, simply seeing the world pass by has a refreshing perspective.
Getting outside and just watching the world can be inspiring and make us feel like we’re part of something larger.
10. Read a Book
I’ve saved the most relaxing outdoor activity for this summer for last. Step away from the television. Escape the news stories, the reality show binge watching, and the true crime documentaries. Settle down with a good book and cold glass of lemonade and sit outside.
I often find that I’ll only do this on vacations. I’ll sit by the beach and read a book for hours on end. So why not do it at home? The escape for your mind is important and the relaxing value of reading with some sun on your shoulders can help you stay mentally healthy and excited about the year ahead.
Outdoor Activities Wrapped Up
As the days grow longer and the air warmer, it’s clear that the great outdoors offers a treasure trove of opportunities, particularly for older adults seeking both adventure and tranquility. From the rhythmic cadence of a morning jog to the contemplative peace of reading under a shady tree, each activity we’ve explored is a testament to the endless possibilities that nature provides for enrichment, health, and happiness.
These activities are not just pastimes; they are lifelines to a vibrant lifestyle, pathways to connect with others, and avenues for personal growth. They remind us that age is but a number and that the natural world remains an ever-accessible source of joy and discovery. Whether it’s through the camaraderie found in team sports, the satisfaction of a well-tended garden, or the simple pleasure of watching the world go by from a park bench, these experiences are vital in crafting a fulfilling life.
As we venture into the outdoors, let’s carry with us a spirit of gratitude and exploration. Let’s cherish these moments of connection with nature, with each other, and with ourselves. For in these moments, we find not just activities to pass the time, but experiences that nourish the soul, energize the body, and bring a renewed sense of purpose.
So, as you step out into the sunshine and under the canopy of the sky, remember that each step, each breath of fresh air, each laugh shared in the great outdoors is a part of a larger journey—a journey that keeps us moving forward, exploring, and savoring the wonderful world around us. Here’s to enjoying the outdoor adventures that await, to the memories we’ll create, and to the many benefits we’ll reap from this beautiful world outside our doors.