Office for the Aging

 

July Is National Park and Recreation Month

The New York State Office for the Aging reminds older New Yorkers and their families to take advantage of the many opportunities provided by New York State’s parks and historic sites during the summer. Because parks allow older New Yorkers to stay active, get outside, and engage with their community, they are an important resource for healthy aging.

Physical activity is a central part of healthy aging. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, staying active into older age reduces your risk of developing certain conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. It also allows for longer independent living, improves your mood, and reduces stress.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, as well as at least two days of strength training. Parks provide many opportunities for these types of exercise, such as hiking, outdoor games, and group exercise classes, while allowing visitors to experience the natural beauty New York State has to offer.

Spending time in parks can also be beneficial for your mental health. According to AARP, being in nature has been shown to improve individuals’ cognitive function, emotional state, and stress levels.

New York’s state parks give people of all ages and abilities a chance to experience these benefits. Many parks allow families with strollers and individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to enjoy their trails and nature centers. The New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation also operates the Access Pass program, which gives New Yorkers with disabilities free or discounted access to state parks, historic sites, and recreational facilities. New Yorkers in need of accommodations at a park are encouraged to search this list of accessible parks by county and call ahead before visiting.

Another program available to help New Yorkers access state parks is the Golden Park Program, which provides New Yorkers 62 years of age and older with free vehicle access to most state parks and reduced fees for historic sites on weekdays, excluding holidays. Qualifying New Yorkers can participate by showing their New York State driver license or non-driver ID at a park.

To find a state park or recreation facility near you, use the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s map of state parks, historic sites, and nature centers. Parks can also be located by available activities.

Specific opportunities in state parks include:

  • Hiking. Most state parks have trails for hiking or easy nature walks, both of which are great ways to get your heart rate up, build strength, and enjoy nature. If you decide to go on a hike or walk, tell family and friends where and when you plan to hike to stay safe.
  • Boating and paddling. Kayaks, canoes, sailboats, motorboats, and other personal watercraft are allowed at various state parks and launch sites. Be sure to register your motorized boat before taking it onto the water and thoroughly clean your boat before and after your trip.
  • Watching wildlife. Many parks have wildlife viewing opportunities and tips for spotting New York’s fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
  • Swimming. A perfect way to cool off and stay active during the summer, swimming is available in lakes, ponds, and pools at many state parks. Additional swimming opportunities can be found at many Department of Environmental Conservation campgrounds. Stay safe by swimming in marked areas only and watching out for dangerously cold water below 77 degrees.
  • Camping. New York’s state parks include campgrounds across the state, many of which also provide opportunities for day use of swimming and picnic areas.
  • Special events. Parks host a multitude of activities for all ages, including arts and crafts, performances, lectures, guided nature walks, movies, and festivals. Make sure to call or check online to see if registration or special materials are required.
  • Volunteering. State parks always need help with cleaning, conservation, education programs, and research. Volunteering is a great way to stay active and engage with your community while helping to preserve nature for others.

For more information about New York’s state parks, visit the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and its publication, the Conservationist; ; or the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.