“The Summer Is Ending So This Is A Good Time To Monitor Aging In Place Concerns In The Yard”

No question that the summer went quickly. It seems we were just getting ready to begin enjoying the warm (or hot in some places) weather and the longer days when we soon ended up here at the other end of the summer. That was way too quick.

This weekend is the last fling of summer and the unofficial end of it. Oh, there will still be nice, warm days and summer-like weather, but there also will be hints of cooler, fall weather sneaking in as well. Our attention will move from the outside and backyard activities to the inside.

As we get ready to leave the active use of the backyard after the summer season – not immediately but before long – let’s look at how our needs might have changed this summer and how they could be different going into a different season. Here, we’re not just talking about ourselves and our friends but our clients and the people around us that we can help with their aging in place needs and concerns.

In terms of mobility or sensory abilities, how might our needs have changed over the past few months that we have to be ready to accommodate? What was usable or accessible by people at the beginning of the summer may be less so now, and as the fall turns into winter, those limitations may become more noticeable.

This is a great time for us to do an assessment or evaluation of our properties and then to take what we found and the way we did our research and use it with our clients. How have we used our outdoor space, how successful have we been in having visitors and guests enjoy our yards with us, what needs to change before next summer so our yards can be more enjoyable for everyone or accommodate changing needs of the people in our family or our friends? This will give us a nice little wish list to work on over the winter time and plenty of time to get the larger activities scheduled.

We have been living outside and taking advantage of fire pits, volleyball or badminton (or other yard games), water features (such as a pool, spa, or fountain), summer kitchens, barbeque areas, gardens, planting sheds, yard swings and chairs, and other outdoor, mostly backyard areas.

It’s not they will all be turned off or put away after this weekend, but many of them will be less comfortable to use as the weather chills. Some, like fire features, may become more popular as we head into fall.

Even for people (ourselves included) who have yards without solid or continuous sidewalks and pathways to get from the house to other attractions in the backyard – and rely instead on stepping stones, gravel or mulch pathways, or just the yard grass to walk on – the changing seasons may make this more of a challenge.

During the summer months, people have dressed for the weather, meaning lightweight clothing such as tee-shirts, shorts (or swimwear), and sandals or flip-flops (or even barefoot). Those are not particularly encumbering on a person’s movements, so they are able to walk about the yard rather freely, and even less than solid, continuous pathways don’t pose as much of a concern as moving through the yard at other times of the year. While the grass mowed and kept trimmed on a regular basis, even moving a walker or wheelchair across the grass – while not ideal or what we would like to see – may be able to be accomplished without a lot of difficulty.

As the summer fades, the yard maintenance will also. The grass won’t necessarily be as easy to walk across. It won’t be as resilient to foot traffic as it is now. Also, people will begin dressing for cooler weather with heavier clothing. This means that their movements may be more restricted and less fluid than they are with lighter weight clothing. Before long, heavier boots, flannel or corduroy, sweatshirts, gloves, and jackets will replace the tee-shirts, short, and sandals.

We will still use our backyards in the fall, winter, and spring seasons. We will just use them differently, and they won’t be a place we spend so much of our time. The daylight hours will be getting shorter (meaning that additional lighting may be necessary), the temperature will drop, snow will come or threaten (depending on where a person lives), and the inside of the home will take over for the backyard as the go-to place for home activities.

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