Are you an "older" American? If so, this is your month. Every year, the President proclaims May as Older Americans Month and encourages communities to recognize the contributions – and potential – of seniors.
This year's theme is “Blaze a Trail,” which of course, we at Sonoma County Regional Parks love. (We have more than 150 miles of trails, after all!) According to event organizers, the theme emphasizes the ways older citizens can take charge of their health and make a difference in their communities.
Blaze a Trail by Staying Active
Health experts agree that walking is the simplest way to improve your health – at any age.
For older adults, the health benefits of walking (and hiking) are especially relevant: improved blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lowered risk of heart disease, stronger bones and muscles, happier moods, more energy and stamina, greater concentration and memory recall, and better sleep. Studies show that walking in parks and natural settings amplifies many of these benefits.
Up for a Challenge?
A great way to experience the connection between walking and health is to take the annual Sonoma County Trails Challenge, which kicks off June 4. The Trails Challenge provides turn-by-turn notes for hiking parks from Petaluma to Gualala and is designed for all fitness levels. Last year, a grandfather and his 11-year-old grandson hiked every featured trail and covered more than 60 miles!
If you're a regular hiker, the Trails Challenge is a fun reminder of all your county parks offer. If you're new to the parks, the Challenge is a way to get comfortable on the trails and build a walking routine.
How About a Bird Walk?
Another upcoming opportunity is to join us for a new series of bird walks. Starting in July, we'll meet on the last Wednesday of the month to explore bird habitat in parks like Spring Lake, Ragle Ranch, Tolay Lake and Cloverdale River Park. These easy-paced walks should appeal to both beginning and advanced birdwatchers. For more details, please check our activities calendar.
Blaze a Trail by Volunteering
According to the federal Administration for Community Living, older Americans are embracing civic engagement in higher numbers than ever before. When you get involved in your community, you not only help the people around you, you help yourself by staying socially active, keeping your mind stimulated and performing meaningful work. And like walking in the parks, it's never too late to get started.
Regional Parks has a robust volunteer program with a range of opportunities available year-round. Volunteers manage campgrounds, build trails, help at the Tolay Fall Festival, photograph the parks, plant trees, lead walks, and help us with other vital services. If you might be interested in joining our team, come to a no-obligation volunteer orientation on June 18.
Become a Parks Member
If you’re 62 or older, you can become a parks member for only $49 a year – a $20 savings off the price of a general membership. Members get a year of free parking, a free night of camping, free admission to the Tolay Fall Festival and discounts at the Spring Lake Water Bark.
Additional Resources for Healthy Aging
Aging Together Sonoma County