Summer is officially here and so is the season for family gatherings, reunions, showers, weddings and graduation parties and many of them will be held outdoors taking advantage of the warmer weather. With multiple generations of guests from the very young to considerably older friends and family, it’s important to create an environment where everyone can safely and comfortably enjoy the festivities.
Keeping kids entertained is usually pretty easy as long as there are other children around to play games with and lots of kid-friendly snacks and drinks. But making an outdoor barbecue or other gathering senior-friendly can take a little more thought. Seniors may not be able to navigate uneven ground safely or may use a cane, walker or wheelchair. Making sure pathways are even and well-lit will help prevent trip and fall accidents than can lead to serious injuries. Any clutter, like hoses, pots, watering cans, pet toys, cords or throw rugs should also be stored away during a family gathering. Having pets underfoot can also cause injuries for elderly adults; according to a study in the Journal of Safety Research, more than 86,000 falls each year were linked with tripping over a cat or dog.
Summer heat can also be a problem for older adults; the sense of thirst diminishes with age and seniors are at increased risk for dehydration. Make sure someone is keeping water glasses filled or passing out water bottles. A cool room indoors where older family members can take a rest and cool off can also be a good idea. Seniors with dementia sometimes get overwhelmed by too much noise or crowds and may need a quiet place to retreat or be distracted by a calming activity. Ask caregivers ahead of time what might be of help to divert attention away from feelings of anxiety; sometimes music or creating art can be calming.
By planning ahead and coordinating with family or friends accompanying an elder to a summer party, arrangements can be made for parking near an entrance to lessen the amount of walking necessary. Organizers should also scope out accessibility for guests that may require wheelchair-friendly washrooms, ramps, lifts or other accommodations. For families that include a senior with dementia there are tips in a previous The Oldish article at this link that will apply to summer parties as well.
Learn more about making your home more senior friendly with The Oldish home safety checklist, found under the Toolkit tab on our homepage.