Oh for those days when I ran wild in the fields with the neighbourhood kids. It seemed like the most natural thing to do after school and at weekends. Cliche, but I can still remember the wind in my hair and a skip in my step. We didn’t worry about the dangers which children and parents, these days, need to.
Since turning 60, I have been trying to recapture some of the highlights of my childhood. While it would be very strange if I gathered my neighbourhood kids and led them to the nearest park to run wild with me, I have been taking myself off to parks to bask in the sunshine which has, finally, decided to come out.
The more we age the more reason there is to savour nature. Here are some compelling arguments:
Health Benefits: Spending time in nature has proven physical and mental health benefits. Engaging in outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, or gardening can improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen muscles and bones, and enhance overall well-being. The fresh air and exposure to natural sunlight also promote the production of vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones.
Stress Relief: The outdoors provides an excellent environment for stress reduction. Being in nature helps lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. Activities like walking in a park, picnicking by a lake, or simply enjoying the tranquility of a natural setting can promote relaxation and improve mood.
Connection with Nature: Many baby boomers grew up in an era where outdoor play was the norm (like me). Rediscovering the natural world can rekindle a sense of wonder and connection with nature. Spending time outdoors can remind individuals of the beauty and diversity of the world around them, fostering a greater appreciation for the environment and a desire to protect it for future generations. I have become more aware of climate change issues myself especially since lockdown when walks in the park were the only ‘allowed’ activity.
Social Engagement: The outdoors provides a fantastic setting for social interaction. Joining community groups, participating in outdoor sports or recreational clubs, or volunteering for environmental causes can not only expand social networks but also provide a sense of belonging and purpose.
Active Aging: Enjoying the outdoors promotes an active lifestyle, which is crucial for healthy aging. Engaging in physical activities can help baby boomers maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, reducing the risk of falls and age-related health issues. It also contributes to increased energy levels and a more independent and fulfilling lifestyle. I have done stretches in the park many times, ignoring people’s stares.
Cognitive Stimulation: Nature has a positive impact on cognitive function. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can enhance memory, attention span, and problem-solving abilities. Activities like birdwatching, gardening, or exploring natural environments stimulate the brain and offer opportunities for learning and exploration. A walk in nature often helps me reframe negative thoughts and I find solutions to problems during these sojourns.
Natural Beauty and Aesthetics: The outdoors is a feast for the senses, offering breathtaking natural beauty and inspiring landscapes. From picturesque sunsets to vibrant flora and fauna, immersing oneself in nature can awaken a sense of awe and provide a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It offers an opportunity to appreciate the simple pleasures of life and find joy in the present moment. Though I must say that I almost ran for my life when I encountered a man with a python wrapped around his shoulders while he was in my local park. During that visit, I neither appreciated the greenery nor had a sense of awe. More a sense of dread which has left me extra watchful these days. Who takes their snake to the park, for goodness sake?
In summary, embracing the outdoors can bring immense benefits to baby boomers, including improved health, stress reduction, a deeper connection with nature, social engagement, active aging, cognitive stimulation, and an appreciation for natural beauty.
So, get out there and enjoy the wonders that the great outdoors has to offer! Sit on that bench, smell the flowers and run in the grass.