Summer beacons outdoor play from water parks and horseback riding to fishing and building sandcastles. Add in baseball, barbeques and baboons at the zoo and the whole family will be sending Snapchat videos of their summertime activities. Did you know Grandma screams on roller coasters? And Grandad can toss a Frisbee well? There are many things you learn when multiple generations get out in the sun for fun. To help ensure summertime adventures are enjoyable for pre-schoolers to seniors, a number of safety precautions can help.
Summer is an ideal time for grandparents to bond with their grandkids through any number of activities that generate laughter and classic family stories for years to come. With some preplanning and safety tips in place, little ones to older adults can avoid sunburn, mosquito bites, skinned knees and worse that can put a damper on summertime togetherness.
Here are some safety considerations for seniors and their grandkids when participating in outdoor activities:
Read and follow all park rules, including the ride size requirements for younger children and physical restrictions for older riders. Make sure everyone stays together and within eyesight at all times. The intense gravitational forces and jerky movements of some rides can strain the neck and joints of both children and older adults, so be sure to take a 15-minute break or so between high-speed rides or simply avoid them. Watch for nausea, dizziness and headaches as signs of bodily stress. Before entering the park, share an escape plan with everyone in your group in case of sudden weather changes, park-wide emergency, etc.
Feeling the wind in your hair and push of the pedals can be exhilarating at any age. With some awareness, those new to biking and those who’ve been around the block a few times can enjoy many a spin together. A stable, comfortable bike fitted well for each body size will reduce the risk of falling and injury. (The young grandkids outgrow bikes quickly.) Cruiser or hybrid bikes that put riders in a better upright position are best for seniors. Choose even, smooth bike paths at local parks or recreational areas that fit the fitness and skill level of the youngest in your group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every day in the United States, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, and one in five of these drowning deaths are children age 14 and under. Essential boating safety for all ages includes wearing life jackets, avoiding alcohol use and knowing weather forecasts and local conditions on the water. Ensuring all non-swimmers in the family learn to swim before joining boat rides can prove a lifesaving measure.
Hiking in the woods and munching on roasted campfire marshmallows always go better when the family follows basic camping safety. Whether you are tent camping or hanging in the RV, be prepared by packing a first aid kit and emergency supplies including a flashlight, knife, map, compass and waterproof fire starter. Apply liberal amounts of insect repellent and avoid wearing perfumes and colognes, which attract stinging insects. Stock up on water and high-energy food and wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet or handling food. Be aware of how to respond to wildlife encounters and do not leave food, garbage, coolers or cooking equipment in the open.
A key to swimming safety is preventing germs in the water by never using the swim area as a bathroom or place to dispose refuse of any kind. Teach everyone not to swallow the water—chlorinated pool water or natural ocean, lake or river water. Adults are to stay within an arm’s length of little children for quick response in case the children get overwhelmed, scared or disoriented. Every hour, both adults and children are advised to take a bathroom break, reapply sunscreen and rehydrate. Always swim together and in an area with designated lifeguards.
Summertime vacations and outings together are the perfect time for grandparents to build incredible memories with their grandchildren. With some advanced planning and flexibility in how each adventure will unfold, everyone can make the most of family time and create plenty of fun memories to share via photos, videos and tall tales.
Gregg Balbera is the president of Right at Home of Nassau Suffolk.