Great accessible winter activities for older people
While it’s much easier to wake up in the summer and motivate yourself to stroll outside, there are many exciting activities more suited to the winter season. It’s especially important to maintain relationships with friends and family and to get outside in the colder months when you have limited mobility. By trying a new activity, you can quickly boost your mood and embrace the winter. In this article, we look at five accessible winter activities for older people.
There is no reason why you can’t experience the joy of swimming, especially if you usually need the help of a curved or straight stairlift at home. It is a tranquil, de-stressing experience that very low impact and good for your joints, that is also achievable throughout the winter. If you’re looking for a particularly special location to swim, try the warm, soothing waters of Thermae Bath Spa. Complete with an accessible rooftop pool overlooking the city, this is one experience you won’t forget in a hurry. We spoke to Mary Stringer, PR & Communications at Thermae Bath Spa, to find out more about what’s on offer for older and disabled people:
“Thermae Bath Spa is an award-winning day spa, combining the old and new. The historic spa buildings, the Hot and Cross Baths blend with the contemporary design of the New Royal Bath. Together, they offer bathing in the warm, mineral-rich waters, a Wellness Suite and a range of spa treatments designed to ease the body and soothe the mind. Thermae was designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and opened in 2006.
“The natural thermal waters, at 35 degrees, ensure that even in the rooftop pool people can keep warm during the winter. At a time of year when many people are battling colds and other illnesses, the warm mineral rich waters are believed to enhance the wellness of those who bathe in them. People have been coming to Bath to take to these famous waters for thousands of years.
“We have one accessible changing cubicle and one accessible shower and toilet on the lower ground floor, and accessible toilets on the first and second floors. We offer a special narrow poolside wheelchair for use around the spa to improve mobility. Thermae is wheelchair accessible with lifts, sloping corridor or ramps to all with hand rails on both sides or Rotunda Stairs (spiral with hand rails on both sides). But there are some constraints due to the historic structure and nature of the environment. All the pools are fitted with assisted pool access chairs or hoists and our staff are fully trained in the operation of the chairs and hoists.”
If you can’t make it to Thermae Bath Spa, your local leisure centre should have accessible facilities and even supportive classes for those who are less mobile.
We are lucky here in the UK to have a wonderful array of wildlife on our doorstep. During the winter, migrating birds and native birds can be seen in abundance, from murmurations of starlings to mischievous robins. The great thing about birdwatching is that all you need to do is step outside, or to a nearby green space, and look out. We spoke to Claire Boothby, Garden BirdWatch Development Officer at the British Trust for Ornithology about what makes birdwatching such a great accessible winter activity for older people:
“I can think of nothing better than watching the birds flitting to and from the trees onto the feeders, and the birds splashing in the bird bath. I find it incredibly relaxing and therapeutic, bringing you closer to nature from the comfort of the living room. In fact, research has linked health benefits to watching the birds in your local area. It can be incredibly rewarding.
“The more you look at your garden wildlife, the more you see, and discover, whether that is about their behaviour or discovering differences in the species of birds you see in the garden throughout the year. No matter how long you’ve watched your birds, there are always new things to learn and discover. It is always nice to go for walks and to go birding further afield, but getting to know and appreciate the common garden birds is something that I could never tire of.
“For those who already watch your garden wildlife, writing down what you’re seeing is also valuable. The process allows you to focus more on what you are seeing, and really helps you to get to know the seasonal rhythms of your garden and wildlife in it.
“Winter is a fantastic time to start paying more attention to your garden birds. Birds need to consume calories to get them through the cold weather, and as we see more birds flocking to feeders. Already this year in the snow, and cold weather, we are recording more birds than normal, including more Redwing, Coal Tits and Bullfinches.”
If you’re a keen wildlife spotter and want to help the British Trust for Ornithology, you can take part in one of their surveys, as Claire explains: “We have numerous surveys for people to take part in, including Garden BirdWatch, aimed at learning more about birds and other wildlife on our doorsteps. Many people watch the birds in their gardens and recording this information in a standardised way throughout the year can be incredibly useful.”
So, what should you be looking out for this winter? “There is so much to see,” said Claire,” but look out for our winter thrushes Redwing and Fieldfare, which are winter visitors to the UK, and often attracted into gardens by berries, and windfall apples, and are recorded in gardens from October through to March. These fantastic birds have already been in more gardens than usual so far this winter.
“Hawfinches are beautiful, large finches seen in the UK year-round, but are an increasingly rare breeding bird. These elusive birds are rarely seen in gardens, but we get the occasional sighting usually in late winter/early spring. We’ve also experienced an influx of migrant Hawfinches during the autumn, so this might be the winter that you see one in the garden!
“Also remember to look out for birds using your nest boxes to roost at night, out of the cold night air. Some species such as Blue and Great Tits are fairly antisocial sleepers, with most individuals roosting alone. Others, however, are much more likely to bed down in groups, with House Sparrows and, in particular, Wrens often roosting in large numbers.”
You can help to attract birds to your garden and help them by providing water, planting for birds and putting out food. The British Trust for Ornithology has handy guides on feeding garden birds and planting for birds.
Winter light festivals
Throughout December and January, cities and attractions will illuminate for a series of winter light festivals. Wherever you are in the UK, there will be an event nearby to take advantage of. Hull’s Old Town will welcome a stunning display by Jason Bruges Studio titled Where Do We Go From Here? Celebrated for his manipulation of light, this installation by Jason Bruges is guaranteed to impress. Look out for the display which runs until Sunday, January 7th. At Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, the Festival of Light runs until January 2nd, displaying huge illuminated lanterns, recreating scenes from classic fairy tales. In Oxfordshire, the grounds of Blenheim Palace will also illuminate, with a trail leading through Capability Brown’s landscaped gardens and impressive fibre optics. Meanwhile, London’s largest light festival, Lumiere, kicks off on January 18 and runs until January 21. More than 40 UK and international artists will be exhibiting work on the streets and buildings of London, many of which are within easy reach via accessible train routes.
Don’t let your mobility problems stop you from trying something new. Disability Snowsports UK offers accessible skiing and snowboarding lessons at centres across the UK, so you too can experience the thrill of hitting the slopes. The organisation’s website states: “Disability Snowsport UK is a people-centred organisation with a unique sense of purpose: that anyone regardless of their disability can take part in and enjoy the thrill of snowsports. We have applied exceptional know-how and adaptability for over 30 years to enable those with a disability to experience the joy of skiing alongside the able-bodied.”
Lessons are available at centres including Snow Factor at Braehead, Chill Factore in Manchester, SnowDome in Tamworth, The Snow Centre in Hemel Hampstead and the Midlothian Snowsports Centre in Hillend, Edinburgh.
Plenty of exciting celestial events occur throughout the winter and fortunately, stargazing requires very little movement. All you need is yourself and a dark sky, and maybe a pair of binoculars. As well as stunning Supermoons, meteor showers and the occasional eclipse, Britain’s night skies are truly spectacular on any clear night. The key is to avoid areas with light pollution and be patient, you never know when a shooting star may pass overhead, or even a satellite. Don’t forget to wrap up warm and stick to accessible routes which you are either familiar with or have researched in advance. If you’re a budding astronomer, there are lots of clubs and classes all over the UK to help you to navigate the night sky. SeaSky also has a handy list of 2018’s celestial events.
This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Image credits: Thermae Bath Spa image – Matt Cardy, Bammber