Every April 22 since 1970, Americans have observed Earth Day. The largest secular observance in the world, the day serves to engage the public in environmental activities and advocacy. We compiled this list of ideas for older adults to observe Earth Day, have fun and do good.
1. Create a plastic reduction plan. Commit to doing your part to reduce the impact of single-use plastics. The Earth Day Network has all the resources you need. Bonus points if you involve your family or senior community in pledging, too.
2. Get friendly with a farmer. Visit an area farmer’s market or take a farm tour to understand more about where your food comes from and how it gets to market. Learn about seasonal foods that make your daily meals more environmentally friendly. The American Heart Association even has a guide to seasonal eating for heart health. Bonus idea: Plan a seasonal foods picnic.
3. Go bird-watching. Birding can be as active or passive as you want, making it one of the best senior activities for spring – or any season! Find a birding outing led by the Audubon Society, American Birding Association or a local nature group. Limited mobility? Watch the birds hanging out in your yard – a contemplative activity that’s great for stress reduction. Take photos or sketch what you see.
4. Grow a garden. Plant flowers and vegetables for your own or others’ enjoyment. In addition to beautifying the landscape, gardening has lots of health benefits. Use the National Wildlife Federation’s native plant finder to identify flora that thrives in the local environment without requiring too much water or fertilizer. Build container gardens and plant vertical-growing plants for elders with limited mobility or arthritic hips and knees.
5. Make bird food. Feed your feathered friends! Preparing your own bird food is a fun activity for the whole family, especially for elders with limited mobility. Try these easy-to-make recipes for suet and hummingbird nectar from the Audubon Society.
6. Plan or participate in a community cleanup. Make your neck of the woods neater by participating in a cleanup event (check the local paper or social media), or stage your own event. GreenHands USA has a detailed plan available for download.
7. Plant a tree or shrub. Clean the air and reduce climate change effects by planting a tree or shrub in your yard or your community (with permission first, of course!). Ask an area nursery owner or arboretum about native varieties that have best chance of success in the local climate.
8. Take a walk. Stroll a local botanical garden or park on your own or with family and friends. Feeling more adventurous? Take a hike in the woods or a local nature preserve. Many local, state and national parks have wheelchair accessible trails to enable people with mobility restrictions to enjoy the great outdoors. Find one using TrailLink.
You can take advantage of the restorative power of nature even if you’re not very mobile or active. Seniors with limited sight, mobility and cognition can look and listen to nature, which studies show has positive physiological impacts. Looking out the window or at photos of nature reduces anxiety and promotes healing from surgery, and the sounds of nature (live or recorded) can improve the immune system’s response.
Bonus Activity: Make a slide show or photo book of beautiful natural images for yourself or friends and family members who can’t get out. Record bird calls, a babbling brook or other nature sounds, or download an app like WhiteNoise to a mobile device.
So what are you waiting for? Add Earth Day to your list of April activities for seniors. Try one or more of these activities on April 22, and see then how many you can keep doing every day.