Summer’s sweltering heat is starting to lift and the leaves may be just starting to turn at the edges—unmistakable signs that fall is coming to Northern Virginia. For many of us, it’s the most gorgeous time of the year here. Just remember that as a senior, you’ll need to take a few simple precautions to enjoy the season. Here are some good ways to stay healthy while soaking up the best that autumn has to offer.
Put NoVA’s parks to work for you.
Everyone knows exercise is good for most of us—and that we all should be getting more of it. Take advantage of Northern Virginia’s ample green space, from strolling the gorgeous Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to taking a more strenuous hike on the Bull Run-Occoquan or one of our many other trails, and you’ll cross “light cardio” off your list without even realizing it.
Reap the bounty of fresh produce.
Unlike in many states, NoVA farmers’ markets generally stay open through at least October, if not all year long. Load up on seasonal goods such as beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, pumpkin, eggplant, cranberries, and kale to help manage diabetes and promote a healthy heart and immune system.
Go apple-picking with friends or grandkids.
There’s a reason for that saying about keeping the doctor away—apples offer a whole host of health benefits, from boosting heart health and lung strength to lowering your cholesterol to bolstering your odds against Type 2 diabetes.
Here are a few favorite places to try picking your own apples—just check ahead first to make sure they’ll be open:
Crooked Run Orchard, 37883 E. Main St., Purcellville, 540-338-6642
Hollin Farms, 1524 Snowden Rd., Delaplane, 540-623-8854
Mackintosh Fruit Farm, 1608 Russell Rd., Berryville, 540-955-6225
Stribling Orchard, 11587 Poverty Hollow Ln., Markham, 540-360-3040
Great Country Farms, 34345 Snickersville Turnpike, Bluemont, 540-554-2073
Schedule pre-winter maintenance.
If your house has a fireplace, now’s the time to have your chimney cleaned and inspected to ward off flue fires. Make sure your heating system is in good working order, too, rather than discover otherwise on the first cold day of the year. A specialist should inspect the furnace and make sure there are no leaks.
Cold-proof your house.
Even without the help of a pro, you can help make sure your home is ready for colder temps. Block any window or door drafts you can find, or have them repaired; they’ll increase your vulnerability for getting sick. Rearrange furniture to block cooler air coming in from windows, and have a few warm throw blankets at the ready on your sofa and recliner.
Keep your yard in order, safely.
If you’ve decided you need to trim some trees, look up and survey the area before you start. Take note of where power lines are located before you set up your ladder, so you can position it away from them. Then, when you climb it, remember that wet shoes or boots may cause you to slip on your way. Make sure the ladder is on a flat surface before you start using it.
Be ready to detect danger.
Fall is a good time to check smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors. Change the batteries in your devices, and test them to make sure they’re still working well. An easy way to remember this is to do it when you flip your clocks back for Daylight Saving Time.
Be careful of falling leaves.
Enjoy them while you’re on a drive on one of Northern Virginia’s many scenic back roads, sure. But at home, remember they’re slippery when wet, may hide obstacles for tripping on, and can clog up your gutters. It’s smart to pay someone to bag them up for you.
Enjoy a scenic drive—with caution.
The fall season means shorter days, making it harder to see kids playing or people walking or on bicycles. Throw in rain and fog, and your visibility may be seriously hampered. Be aware of that, and slow down if you can’t see as well as usual. In bad weather with decreased visibility, use your dimmed headlights. Finally, slow down on wet pavement—it’s harder to stop, especially if soaked leaves are on the road, making things even slipperier and challenging your ability to get good traction.
Wash your hands even more than you think you need to.
Use hot, soapy water and take your time (you know the drill by now—humming “The Happy Birthday Song” should keep you at the sink long enough).
Freshen up your closet.
Have light sweaters and jackets handy—layering is your smartest move all autumn long. Sturdy shoes and boots with non-skid soles are a must, so you don’t land flat on your back the minute a sheet of ice forms.
Load up on pumpkin snacks.
That Jack-o-Lantern can be more than just a pretty (well, interesting) face. Roasted seeds and pumpkin spreads are a healthful treat—pumpkin pulp is rich in vitamins A and C, and the seeds help lower your cholesterol because they’re full of phytosterols.
Get at least a little high-tech.
Even though Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner, fall and winter can leave a lot of people on their own, especially when freezing temps or bad weather makes it hard to leave the house. Before it gets to that point, you may want to learn how to video-chat with your friends and family using services like Zoom, Facetime, and Skype. Or it may just be time to get on Facebook.
Organize your medicine cabinet.
This is a great time to get everything in place and make sure you have plenty of flu-prevention essentials, like hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, Kleenex, and any over-the-counter supplements you take to boost your immune system, like vitamin C or zinc. Toss expired prescriptions or anything you no longer use.
Work on a fall-themed jigsaw puzzle or adult coloring book.
When a chill sets in the air, what better place to be than tucked inside at your dining table, a cranberry-clove candle burning, as you piece together a fall country autumn scene or shade in a sea of sun-dappled trees? They’re meditative ways to welcome the season.