Winter: Why don’t we step outside?

Time spent outside is good for all of us and the great outdoors provides an ever-changing source of interest and entertainment that is available 24/7, 365 days a year so why do we find it so hard to step across the threshold?

During our research, the attitudes, values and practices of the organisation, its people and its culture, was shown to be the biggest factor influencing engagement levels outside by residents. Those care settings practicing person-centred care, and beyond, will more naturally engage outside as and when a resident wishes throughout the year.  So, if you are asking yourself ‘why don’t we go outside more?’ we often have to look at ourselves and our own attitudes first.

Many of us, not surprisingly, may not like winter or really relish the thought of going out in the cold, rain, snow or wind. Who wouldn’t much prefer going out on a perfect summer’s day?   Our own connection, or resistance, to going outside at this time of year may have a subtle sub-conscious influence on our willingness to go out with residents too. As in so many areas of life we may need to check in on our own bias, to watch any negative language, regards going outdoors. Instead we need to consciously focus on peoples’ interests, life story and listen out for those often subtle connections and desires that present an opportunity to step outside when people reveal the wish to do so.

Residents who enjoyed an outdoor life through their work or hobbies, or owned a pet which took them outside to undertake daily tasks (dog, horse, chickens to name a few) may well have had to go out in all weather. And as many will tell you, they too may not have wanted to go out in the rain etc but having done so, they then will often recount tales of unexpectedly beautiful moments outside and a sense of glowing, even smugness, at having made the effort when they come back in.

Others may have stepped out simply for the joy of being out in the elements themselves; going for a walk or enjoying watching the birds and nature unfolding around them.  Who doesn’t enjoy a hot drink after a bracing walk on a cold or windy day? How can you plan this ‘hug in a mug’ reward for those who venture out to feel the cold and wind on their face?

The Scandinavians have a saying that ‘there is no wrong weather only wrong clothing’. Look at how prepared you are for being able to support people who may wish to go out in all weathers, what may they want to do there and who may need to support them? Do you have the right clothing and shoes to hand so you can grab the moment when they wish to go out? Just as importantly do you have suitable clothing to hand for yourselves too? 

For those living with dementia, seeing and sensing the changing seasons may help people orientate themselves within the year with key triggers such as: bare branches of trees or the sight and feel of  frost or snow on the ground and seeing the birds and animals working hard to get through this tough season, possibly with help from us with feeders and water. What activities can you do to emphasise the seasons unfolding outside the door? What seasonal tasks did people do in their gardens at home and what can they help with now?

For more information for supporting people to go outside in all weathers you may find the following resources helpful:

An inspiring and colourful A3 Infographic poster including hints and tips for engaging outside more and helping visits last longer. Ideal for noticeboards:

A Webinar recorded for NAPA exploring ‘Weather’ to go outside? This explores the role of Care Culture by using the weather to help understand what may hinder your engagement outside. (50 minutes)

There are lots of free articles exploring much more at:

Step Change Design

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