Jun 25, 2024

Should You Let Senior Residents Spend Time Outside?

If you’ve ever been cooped up inside for a prolonged period of time, you can understand for the first time that getting some fresh air and sunshine can be good for your physical and mental health. Healthline says that spending time outdoors can result in better sleep, fewer depression symptoms, mental restoration, and increased motivation to exercise, among other benefits.

Unfortunately, many seniors don’t get outside much. According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, compared to other age groups, older adults are less likely to spend time outdoors and are less active, but older adults who spend time outdoors and are active show greater self-reported physical functioning, fewer depressive symptoms and a reduced fear of falling.

To help residents enjoy these mental and health benefits, adult residential care facilities can host outdoor activities:

  • Gardening: Gardening can be a highly fulfilling hobby, and it also provides good exercise and exposure to fresh air and sunlight.
  • Exercise: There are many ways to enjoy exercise outdoors, from leisurely walks to yoga, swimming, and pickleball matches.
  • The Arts: Painting, poetry, music, and reading can all be enjoyed outside.
  • Picnics and Barbeques. Not every outdoor activity needs to involve exercise. A picnic or barbeque is also a nice way to get some fresh air and enjoy a change of scenery.

Prioritizing Safety During Outdoor Activities

Outdoor safety best practices can help your team and your residents enjoy the benefits of outdoor activities without suffering the drawbacks. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Watch out for extreme weather.

During the summer, heat stroke and sunburn can pose serious risks. The CDC says older adults are more vulnerable to heat-related health concerns and have a harder time adjusting to sudden temperature changes. Medications and chronic illnesses may make seniors more susceptible to heat-related illness. You can help by checking in with residents to make sure they’re cool enough and by training staff on the signs of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, heat cramps, feeling thirsty, weak, nauseated uncoordinated or swelling in the legs and ankles. Heat stroke can involve fainting, behavior changes, a high body temperature, dry skin, changes in pulse and no longer sweating – this is a medical emergency and requires immediate care.

In the winter, cold weather is a risk. The National Institute on Aging says older adults may have poor circulation and health conditions that make them more susceptible to cold weather. In addition to hypothermia and frostbite, older adults may also be at risk for falls on slippery or icy surfaces.

In addition to keeping an eye on residents, providing water, and encouraging weather-appropriate clothes, you can plan activities to avoid extreme weather. For example, in the summer, early-morning activities are a good way to beat the heat. Don’t engage in outdoor activities when it’s not safe to do so.

  1. Steer clear of pests and other irritants.

Mosquitoes and ticks can ruin a nice day outside. You can help your residents by taking steps to reduce the presence of pests. For example, remove pools of stagnant water to reduce mosquitoes and keep grass and weeds trimmed to reduce the threat of ticks. The CDC has additional tips, which include using insect repellants, checking the body for ticks, and taking a shower soon after being outdoors.

Pollen is also a concern. The CDC says that 26.4% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 experience seasonal allergies. Although medicine can help relieve allergies, seniors who are taking other medications should check for potential drug interactions first.

During wildfire season, smoke can also be a concern, sometimes leading to dangerous levels of air pollution. You can monitor the National Weather Service’s Air Quality Index and avoid outdoor activities when it is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

  1. Safeguard against injuries.

When engaging in outdoor exercise, injuries are a risk. Of course, injuries can happen indoors as well, but uneven ground and heat can increase the risk.

  • Watch for uneven surfaces that could cause residents to trip, such as gopher holes or broken steps.
  • Monitor residents for heat-related injuries and avoid extreme temperatures, as covered above.
  • Make sure activities are appropriate for residents and their abilities.
  • Watch residents and administer medical care as needed.
  • Help residents choose appropriate clothes and shoes to avoid injuries.
  1. Review your adult residential care facility insurance.

Adult residential care facility insurance provides vital protection against potential lawsuits. Prior to engaging in new or different outdoor activities, talk to your agent to find out if your policy includes any outdoor activity limitations or exclusions.

Do you need help securing adult residential care facility liability insurance? Tangram provides insurance for residential care facilities through the Personal Care & Assisted Living Insurance Center (PCALIC). We offer a proprietary insurance program designed to help assisted living and companion care organizations secure the coverage they need without overpaying. Learn more.