7 Outdoor Activities For Seniors In Winter During the Pandemic and Flu Season

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

This winter is a double whammy for seniors and the elderly as they are susceptible both to cold and COVID-19. Staying in the house all winter isn't a good idea either. So, here are some outdoor winter activities that seniors can enjoy - even during the pandemic.

pandemic safe activities for seniors
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The elderly are at the highest risk for Covid-19. Not only does this mean that they are more restricted than anyone else but also that any activities that they do participate in must be considered to be Covid-19 safe.

The WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) both have lists of Covid-19 safe activities on their websites. Both these lists contain mainly activities that take place outdoors. The reason for this is that the virus has less of a chance of spreading in the great outdoors where people have less close contact with another.

However, not all these activities are ideally suited to the elderly who may have mobility issues, physical health problems or mental health conditions that create limitations. Not to mention the cold. It is important to remember that seniors feel the cold faster and can suffer mild to severe problems from difficulty breathing to hypothermia.

No matter what outdoor activities you choose, make sure that you are dressed warmly and limit exposure to the cold for seniors. Also recognize the early signs and symptoms of hypothermia and seek medical treatment immediately if they do occur.

Below are 7 activities that seniors can enjoy outdoors without having to be too concerned with Covid-19.

1. Walking

Walking alone or in groups of 2 or 3 with people from the same household is considered to be Covid-19 safe. However, we aren’t talking about a hike through the woods or climbing a mountain for the elderly. Just a slow walk around the block on a pathway that has just been cleared of snow and ice is sufficient – as much as the senior can handle. A walk in a nearby park is also a great idea to take in the scenery of a winter wonderland.

Precautions to Take: Dress warmly and make sure to wear a scarf, hat and face covering. The right boots for slippery surfaces is essential as are warm, comfy socks. Have a warm home and hot beverage to return to after the dose of cold outdoor air.

man and son walking in park during winter
Talking a walk in the park is a pandemic-safe activity during the winter because they usually aren’t crowded. Just make sure the sidewalk or path conditions are safe for walking.

2. Driving

In days gone by, going for a slow Sunday drive to simply view the scenery was standard. Winter is the ideal time to enjoy a drive through the countryside and enjoy the transformation of the landscape. The drive doesn’t have to have a destination in mind but can just be for the sake of driving.

Precautions to Take: The whole idea is to stay in the car with the heat turned up to avoid the cold. This will also help avoid contact with other people and ensure Covid-19 safety. However, it is still important for seniors to wear warm clothing – preferably in layers that can be removed.

3. Riding

Depending on where you live, a horse-drawn carriage ride is a great way to get out and about. A thermos with a favorite hot beverage is a must and some company to share the ride and the scenery with is ideal. It is a good idea to book ahead with the driver of the carriage to ensure that they are available when you are ready to go to avoid disappointment at the last minute.

Precautions to Take: It is extra important to dress warmly for a carriage ride as you are entirely exposed to the elements. Take along a blanket to cover your legs and wear gloves or mittens, scarf and hat. Don’t stay out too long and return home if it is getting too cold – even if this means cutting your ride short.

4. Eating

Eating out is definitely not a Covid-19 safe activity – simply too may people in an enclosed space. But there is no reason that you can’t eat delectable dishes from a favorite restaurant in the comfort and warmth of your own home. Simple call them, place your order and wait for delivery. Alternatively, take a drive to the restaurant and collect your order. This is a great excuse to get out of the house and enjoy a good meal.

Precautions to Take: Before placing an order, ask whether the restaurant adheres to Covid-19 regulations and best practices. All food should be packaged in individual containers and restaurant staff should wear masks and/or gloves when preparing and serving food. Also ask if your order can be brought to your car instead of going into the restaurant to collect.

senior couple with bags of take out food
Going for a drive then grabbing some take out food to bring home is considered a safe activity during the pandemic.

5. Watching

Going to the cinema is another big no-no due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once again, just too many people in too small a space. But there is no reason why you can’t go to your local drive-in to catch the latest movies or even indulge in some old-time favorites. Drive-ins are making a resurgence across the nation due to the fact that they offer a safer entertainment option. Plus, you get to stay nice and warm and cozy in your car without having to brave the cold.

Precautions to Take: Take along your own popcorn, easy to make snacks and beverages. Even if the drive-in has a store or take-away restaurant, going in increase Covid-19 risks. It is best not to leave your car for the entire movie (or second feature if you are up for it). If you absolutely must visit the store or use the facilities, remember to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands and sanitize.

6. Building

There is nothing quite as fun as building a snowman and rolling a few snowballs to chuck at each other. While it may be a little cold, it is well worth getting out and letting your inner child shine for a while. Assemble some of the usual paraphernalia like buttons, a scarf, hat and anything else to make your snowman truly unique. This is a great opportunity to get really creative with snow.

Precautions to Take: Dress warmly and pay attention to any signs that hypothermia may be setting in. These signs include pale skin, cold hands and feet that won’t warm up and shivering. To be on the safe side, set a time limit to your building project or get inside to get warmed up immediately when you start to feel the cold . You can always return to your project later. This is an entirely Covid-19 safe activity that can be enjoyed with family and friends who will keep their distance.

birding for seniors in winter
Seniors can get out and enjoy birding safely with other members of the household during the cold weather.

7. Birding

Bird-watching has always been a particular activity that is associated with the elderly. Buy a bird book with all the local birds and tick them off as you spot them. You can spend just a short period of time outdoors and even travel to different locations to complete your list and find those especially rare creatures of flight.

If the cold gets too much, you can even continue this activity indoors watching for birds through your windows. You can add some fun by creating groups online that can compete for who spots the most new birds on their list or who is privileged enough to get to see the really rare birds. A pair of binoculars are a must for the bird watching senior.

Precautions to Take: This is an entirely Covid-19 safe activity as it is mostly performed alone and without any contact with others whatsoever. However, if you are going to venture into the outdoors to get a better view of the birds, remember to keep warm and pay attention to when the cold sets in. Also, if you want to travel to different locations to do your bird watching, then remember to check the weather report before you leave. You don’t want to be caught in inclement weather while you are out and about.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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