Fall is a great time of year to plan an outing almost anywhere you live in the country. The weather tends to be cooler and easier to predict. That makes outdoor excursions more fun for everyone. And there’s research to show that older adults reap health benefits from getting out and about in the community. Advantages range from decreased anxiety to fewer incidences of depression.
If you are a family caregiver, especially for a loved one with memory loss, you might be wondering how to safely plan an outing. We have a few tips you might find useful.
Fun Fall Outings for Older Adults and Family Caregivers
- Have reasonable expectations on distance: Before you can figure out where to go, it’s important to carefully consider how long your senior loved one can ride in a car and whether they can stay overnight. For those with a chronic or life-limiting health condition, that also means how safe it is to be away from their doctors. Once you set a realistic expectation for how far away you can travel, you can begin to research potential attractions.
- Research destinations ahead of time: Are you hoping for an outdoor activity or are you interested in staying inside? There are plenty of fall destinations that allow you to soak up the sunshine. Many apple orchards and pumpkin patches offer musical programs, hayrides, and other activities. While weekends might be packed with people, weekday mornings or afternoons are often slower. This article in USA Today lists the top ten apple orchards to visit in 2021.
- Consider mobility challenges: Going for a drive to enjoy the fall color, also known as leaf peeping, is another great fall activity. This one can be especially appealing for seniors who have mobility challenges that limit how much walking they can do. Depending on where you live and how far you are interested in driving, you can monitor the color change online or through an app. New England Foliage is a comprehensive site for getting leaf reports, planning routes, and finding places to stop along the way. Apps like Leaf Peepr and Weather Underground have earned good reviews, and both are available on iOS and Android devices.
- Build in breaks and rest stops: Another factor to consider is the availability of rest areas or other places to take a break and stretch your legs. If you aren’t familiar with the area you will be traveling to, there are several online ways to explore and plan your route. In Google Maps, choose search along route from the menu and select rest area. The app will display a list of rest stops that are along the route you are driving. Some states also have a list of welcome centers and rest stops on their Department of Transportation websites. This can also help make planning easier.
- Plan around good and bad times of day: If you are a caregiver for an older family member, you’ve likely discovered there are good and bad times of day. This is especially true for adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. You might also need to take medication schedules and testing needs (i.e., for diabetes) into consideration.
- Pack snacks and essentials: Whether you are going a short distance or planning a longer drive, it’s probably a good idea to pack a bag with essentials. From road construction to busy highways, your trip might take longer than you think. Water, snacks, medications, a cell phone charger, an extra set of car keys, bleach wipes, a small first aid kit, change for toll roads, and a garbage bag or two are a few suggestions to include.
Plan an Intergenerational Fall Activity
Another idea to consider this fall is to plan an activity or two with several generations of the family. Maybe on one of the fall federal holidays when kids are typically off from school, such as Columbus Day in October or Veterans Day in November. Health Benefits of Intergenerational Activities highlights a few of the many reasons why bonding across the generations is worth the extra planning effort.