The colors of autumn are an indelible part of living in Northern Virginia: the rust-colored leaves, the orange hue of pumpkins, and the dark pink sunsets that begin earlier and earlier each day. It’s the most comforting and mellow time of the year; but as the grandkids head back to school and the days feel shorter, keeping busy, healthy, and happy is key. Here are some simple ways to keep you on your toes and end the year strong.
Spend the Day at the Park
An easy way to spend time with the grandkids is venturing out to one of the many parks Northern Virginia has to offer. From playgrounds to trails and dog parks to places for a picnic, you’ll be guaranteed to have an entertaining day.
Bull Run Regional Park: This 1,500-acre park is any nature fan’s sanctuary, with numerous winding trails and no shortage of breathtaking views. An added bonus? This park is a part of the Roving Naturalist Program, an interpretation program that allows you and your family to take part in guided nature walks, canoe and kayak tours, and night explorations. 7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville
Riverbend Park: Bordering the Potomac River, Riverbend Park has more than 10 miles of hiking trails, highlighting the natural beauty of the region. And for any bird-watchers, the park provides excellent opportunities for watching eastern deciduous bird species in the fall. 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls
Widewater State Park: If you are spending the whole day with family and the grandkids, Widewater State Park will keep everyone busy. Not only are there ample trails, but kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking will make your day more than entertaining. 101 Widewater State Park Rd., Stafford
Reconnect with Friends
Give social media a chance
For many, having friends close by is a luxury. But even if your friends are states, or even countries, away, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch. While social media can be confusing, downloading Instagram or Facebook is a wonderful way to have virtual conversations and see what friends and family are doing.
If friends are nearby, take advantage and set up a date. It can be difficult to make the first move if you haven’t been in contact in a while, but chances are your friends feel the same. Start easy and schedule a walk or take an outdoor exercise class together.
Go with a routine
After you have reconnected with friends, it’s important to maintain that connection. Once you find an activity or spot to see friends, make a plan to see each other every week or month. By holding each other accountable, you’ll find it much easier to preserve your friendships.
Check Out Local Museums
Virginia is one of the oldest states in the country, and our museums and historic sites can attest to that. Whether you have a couple hours to spare or a whole day free, there are countless spots in the region to keep you entertained and educated. Here are a few of our favorites:
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is packed with history and beautiful views that never disappoint. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mt. Vernon
Lucy Burns Museum teaches you the history of the former Lorton Prison Complex, including the treatment of women suffragists who were held there in 1917. 9518 Workhouse Wy., Lorton
The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington celebrates the African American journey to freedom in Arlington County. 2611 Columbia Pk., Arlington
Loudoun Museum includes such varied exhibits as Caught in the Maelstrom of Civil War: Loudoun County Divided and Vintage Pursuits: Cultivating a Virginia Wine Industry. 16 Loudoun St. SW, Leesburg
The Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail will teach you about freedom seekers in Fauquier County. 10 Ashby St., Warrenton
Spend Some and Save a Lot
Cut back on food costs
If you are aiming to save money, the first thing to check are your food costs. More often than not, we end up buying more than we need or forget what we have at home. Start by designating a part of your fridge as the “eat first” section. Place any leftover meals or food on the verge of expiring onto the same shelf. That way, the next time you’re heading to the grocery store or thinking of getting takeout, you won’t be wasting any food or cash.
Get the same entertainment for less
Take advantage of the perks
It might feel like everything costs money, but that’s not always the case. If you’re a bookworm, stop spending upward of $20 on just one book. If you don’t mind a paperless read, downloading the app Libby gets you thousands of free e-books and audiobooks from your public library. And if you’ve been daydreaming about taking a history, science, or English class, Virginia allows residents above the age of 60 to take college courses at many of our public universities free of charge.
Organized and Orderly
Get the label machine out
Organizing can be a simple task or a draining chore. If you want to avoid the latter, start out by using a label maker. Snacks in your pantry or cleaning supplies can easily become a mess when you stick everything in the same compartment. Try storing these items in small bins and labeling each bin, allowing you to have more control over the most utilized parts of your home.
Keep important documents in the same safe place
With endless critical documents to keep track of (birth certificates, medical paperwork, social security statements, etc.) organizing becomes a necessity. Keeping your essential documents in one place eliminates the hassle of searching your entire house for one piece of paper. Look for fireproof safes and use folders to separate the documents from one another.
Sort your medicine
Like documents, keeping track of different medications and when to take what can become a challenge. An easy fix is to create a medicine list that clearly outlines how often you take each medication, the dosages, and the prescribing doctor. Then, store each of your medications into stackable, labeled containers and keep them near your medicine list.
Keep your closet away from chaos
Your closet can turn into disarray in the blink of an eye. Clean out some space by planning to declutter it monthly. Donate any clothes you haven’t worn in a while or sell anything in good condition to a consignment shop. Once that’s done, you can make use of decorative baskets and a label maker to organize hats, belts, ties, scarves, purses, and more.
Get that body up and moving
We all know exercise is good for the body and mind. While it can be difficult to get motivated and stay motivated, setting aside just one hour of your day for a long walk will slowly but surely create an effective exercise routine. If you want to add a little more intensity, take a couple days of the week to swap walking for using a low-impact machine at the gym. (Check for discounts for seniors at the gym.) But regardless of how you choose to get your body moving, begin and maintain a stretching routine after your workouts. As we get older, our joints get stiffer and our range of motion decreases, but a proper stretching routine will help combat these afflictions.
Update what’s on your plate
How often your body is active is only one step into a healthy lifestyle. To make sure your healthy habits are transferring into what you put in your body, it’s important to consider what health concerns are most significant to you. If you are adamant about strengthening your bones, incorporate foods with vitamin D into your diet, such as salmon, eggs, and mushrooms. If you are trying to be cautious of heart ailments, reduce your sodium use in meal preparations. And if you are just hoping to shed a few pounds, prioritize nutrient dense foods with few calories, like beans, soybean products, and steel cut oats.
This story originally ran in our September issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.