We think of zoos as a classic class trip for children–but seniors can enjoy them too! Taking your loved one to visit a zoo, possibly with the extended family in tow, can be a great way to create togetherness and provide a stimulating activity for your loved one. In southern California we have some of the best zoos and aquariums in the nation, so this can make a great local day trip.
Interaction with animals is beneficial both for seniors and their stressed caregivers. Research has shown that this activity contributes to lower blood pressure and makes people feel happier. The increased chance of social interaction that happens during a zoo visit, whether the senior is part of a group or just visiting with one caregiver, also has positive effects such as reducing the chance of depression. Your loved one will even get more exercise than they do when they stay at home.
For various reasons, seniors are often not able to have pets. This can be a difficult restriction to live with for those who are lifelong animal lovers. But regular zoo visits allow these seniors to experience the benefits of animal interaction.
Those who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can specifically benefit from zoo visits, as this environment can trigger happy childhood memories.
Be sure to plan your trip carefully, as that will help the day go smoothly and minimize stress for both of you. Schedule your trip for a day when the weather will be good. You’ll want to arrive close to opening time, when the zoo will be less crowded. Discuss with your loved one what exhibits they want to see, and get a map of the zoo beforehand so that you can plan the best route for seeing everything on your list. That way you won’t get lost or waste time backtracking once you’re there.
When you’re at the zoo, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The staff regularly deal with various people with disabilities and know ways to help your loved one get the most out of their visit. Zoos often offer priority seating during events for those with mobility or vision issues. Special audio assistance devices can also be arranged. And be aware that many zoos offer senior discounts or other special deals for the elderly.
A trip to the zoo can be a fun diversion for both seniors and caregivers, breaking up the monotony of the day-to-day.