If you are a retiree, senior, or elderly person looking to enjoy his/her sunset years, you should consider birdwatching as a hobby. Yes, really! Birdwatching can really boost your lifestyle and contribute to your overall levels of health and wellness that you’ll even start feeling younger again.
The great thing about birdwatching is that you can still enjoy it even if you aren’t mobile or are temporarily or permanently resting indoors. It is ideal for all you homebound seniors since it is a great alternative to reading or watching TV.
Video Guide: Birdwatching for Seniors & Elderly People
Benefits of Birdwatching for Seniors
Birdwatching helps keep the mind active and gives you an opportunity to participate in a hobby that doesn’t necessarily require leaving your living room if you don’t want to. Here are the benefits of birdwatching especially for seniors.
1. It Encourages You to Go Outdoors and Exercise
Finding the motivation to get active is usually hard for many seniors. Birdwatching, however, gives you plenty of opportunities to go outside to take a stroll through the park or even to maintain feeders. You are probably cooped up indoors for extended periods and birdwatching gives you the chance to go outside and enjoy nature and the outdoors while enjoying a hobby.
2. It is Cognitively Stimulating
Birdwatching not only provides physical benefits but also cognitive benefits especially for seniors. It will give you the opportunity to learn about the eating and mating habits of local birds and memorize their appearances, names, and calls. It stimulates cognitive alertness, memory, and awareness of details.
3. It Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Spending time in nature is incredibly calming. Birdwatching requires patience that only serves to enhance its meditative effect. As you learn to appreciate the slower pace of nature, it inspires relaxation, reflection, and perspective. It can help you connect with yourself, others, and nature in general.
4. It is Great for Any Level of Mobility
Seniors that require care from home care aides or family caregivers are already dependent for so many things. Many are homebound and cannot go anywhere without assistance. Birdwatching is something that an elderly adult can enjoy without the need to leave their street or even backyard.
5. It Can Be Done Anywhere
You might not be able to go out hiking to spot birds. You might be homebound or live too far away from the woods. Regardless of reason, this may impose a serious obstacle to birdwatching. However, it is incredibly easy to set up birdwatching wherever you are – even indoors.
How to Birdwatch for Indoors If You Have Mobility Issues
Here are the simple steps to follow to set up indoor birdwatching for seniors:
- Find out what birds live in the area as well as what they eat along with the types of feeders they use. Different birds eat different foods, which is why you should prepare a place where the birds will want to feed.
- Install or hang the bird feeders in the birdwatcher’s direct view. The birds should be easily seen when the person is seated in the chair. Use hooks and chains or mounted posts to adjust the heights of the bird feeders.
- Add texture and color to the habitat by including a bird bath, small garden decorations, flowers, and attractive plants to create a great view for the birdwatcher to enjoy. Adjust these for various seasons to ensure maximum enjoyment.
- Arrange the furniture such that the person has a clear view of the window. It might mean moving a recliner directly in front of the window or angling it slightly so that the person does not need to strain the eyes or neck.
- Ensure that the observation window is clean both on the outside and inside. Streaks, dirt, view-obstructing window dressing, and thick screens can all take out some of the joy of watching birds.
- Set up a birdwatching station next to the chair with a notebook, binoculars, and a small field guide to help the birdwatcher identify local birds. Ensure that the items are easy to reach from the recliner.
Birdwatching Guide for Seniors (with Tips for Success)
The following is a general birdwatching guide for those not necessarily confined indoors. In fact, it is more of a guide to successful birdwatching outdoors.
- Get a lightweight binocular. You should choose a lens with a wide field of view. The field of view refers to the extent of observing subjects from a point in the camera. The wider the view, the clearer the birds will be seen.
- Don’t wear bright-colored clothes. It’s simply better to go for darker or natural shades as camouflage, black or gray.
- Go early in the morning. The vast majority of birds come out during sunrise since it warms up insects that act as their prey. The chances of viewing a wide range of birds are thus higher during this period.
- Avoid sudden, jerky movements. The problem with such movements is that they will only startle the birds thus making them fly away. Try swinging your binocular slowly. The closer that you approach a bird, the quieter you need to be.
- Have a notebook. It will come in handy when it comes to writing down the details of the birds watched as well as the sound of their calls. All these details will help you identify them accurately.
- Be patient! Patience is the name of the game when it comes to birdwatching. Wait patiently for the arrival of the birds, since beautiful flocks come out at the right time and when the weather is right.
Gear Needed for Birdwatching
One of the greatest aspects of birdwatching is that unlike most other hobbies, it is something you can easily pick up immediately. It is a skill that’s developed with time. To help you get started with this fun outdoor hobby for seniors, you will require the following items:
The best binocular is one with a lens with a wide field of view as explained above. Its magnification should enhance and not strain your eyesight. It should also have comfortable lenses that rest easily against your glasses or eyes. The average pair costs about $100, but the price may vary depending on the features. But, ones in the $200 to $300 range offer a much better birding experience.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology recommends the following models:
Celestron Nature DX
Zeiss Terra ED
Birdwatching scopes are a must-have item for any serious birdwatcher. They allow you to really zoom in and see smaller details of the bird. If you want something even smaller, you should consider getting a birdwatching monocular.
Scopes are available in either angled or straight models. They are more expensive than binoculars typically but they do a better job too.
Here are some scopes recommeded by Bird Watching HQ that are sufficient for hobbyists. Serious birders though may want a bit more.
Nikon Prostaff 5
Celestron TrailSeeker 80
Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A
3. Birding Book
You can contact your state’s department of natural resources for recommendations of birdwatching materials and guides. You can also use the Golden Field Guides’ Birds of North America (Amazon link) since it has a lot of useful information.
As you delve deeper into birdwatching, you should consider investing in more detailed guides such as the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Amazon link) among others.
The notebook you choose for your birdwatching adventure to record your birdwatching information will depend on your personal preference. Whenever you go birdwatching, you should make detailed notes about what you saw, and you can also store plant samples, pictures, and various other tidbits in your notebook.
5. Outdoor Gear
You must never go wandering outdoors without a good hat, sunscreen, and some bug spray. Pick a walking shoe that not only fits but also breathes well. If you plan to go on a longer hike, be sure to carry light snacks, several water bottles, medications, and a cell phone. You should also make sure that you wear comfortable clothing that’s not brightly colored.
Birdwatching is a great stress reliever that’s open to anyone (seniors or younger people), regardless of your nature know-how or physical condition. Whether you are birdwatching from your kitchen window or hiking the tallest cliffs, there are always birds in plenty ready for spotting. All you need to do is grab your binoculars and bird identification book and the rest of the stuff discussed here and get started.
Have you been out for any birdwatching experiences? Tell me about them in the comments below!