Elders may experience intense stress and worry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While all seniors are at risk, those with underlying health conditions are in even more danger from potential exposure. Nevertheless, seniors who can manage safely on their own can benefit from getting outside for some activity, which can reduce stress and lift the mood. With appropriate precautions, there are still things seniors can do outside during social distancing. Seniors should avoid areas where people are failing or refusing to comply with the recommendation to wear a cloth face covering, and they should certainly stay away from anyone who seems sick.
Dancing on the Deck, Prancing on the Patio
Living situations that provide private outdoor space offer seniors the chance to get outside for some fresh air and activity without getting too close to others. Elders can put on some favorite music and do a little dancing (seated or standing, depending on mobility).
Growing something from the ground up brings a special kind of satisfaction. Seniors can order supplies for contactless delivery and enjoy creating small container gardens or planting some flowering perennials that will return next year.
Seniors who are lucky enough to live in communities relatively free from “light pollution” need only look up for some peaceful enjoyment on a warm, clear night. Stargazing—with the naked eye, or with a sanitized telescope or binoculars—is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the “big picture” outdoors. Several apps turn cellphones into celestial maps that identify stars, planets, comets, and constellations. Some even show where and when satellites or the international space station will pass overhead.
Seniors who may safely travel to parks and preserves can still take a nice walk outdoors, as long as they observe appropriate social distancing. The “six feet apart” rule is a minimum. Active seniors that want to go for a walk or a run must be careful to avoid crowded areas and find ways to separate themselves from others on the track or trail. Stay away from others, and give a wide berth to those passing in either direction. Seniors should not touch any surfaces in a public park or preserve, including railings, benches, picnic tables, or playground equipment.
Seniors venturing outside beyond their own backyards or patios should take some hand sanitizer along. Immediately upon returning home, anyone who has been outside should wash their hands with soap for the recommended twenty seconds, being sure to lather all the fingers, thumbs, the palms, and between the fingers, as well as wrists and palms. Sanitize all doorknobs, keys, or light switches that anyone who has been outside has touched. Sanitize these frequently touched surfaces several times a day, if possible.
With care and caution, healthy seniors who can safely move about on their own can still go outside during social distancing if they observe the rules of keeping distant from others and avoiding places where others fail to cover their noses and mouths.