Fall colors are an integral part of life in Northern Virginia: the rust-colored leaves, the orange hue of the pumpkins, and the deep pink sunsets that start earlier and earlier each day. It is the most comforting and sweetest time of the year; but as the grandchildren return to school and the days seem shorter, staying busy, healthy and happy is essential. 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 to venture to one of the many parks Northern Virginia has to offer. From playgrounds to trails and dog parks to picnic spots, you’re sure to have an entertaining day.
Bull Run Regional Park: This 1,500-acre park is a sanctuary for any nature lover, with plenty of winding trails and plenty of breathtaking views. An additional bonus? This park is part of the Roving Naturalist program, an interpretive program that allows you and your family to participate in guided nature walks, canoe and kayak trips, and nighttime explorations. 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centerville
Riverbend Park: Bordering the Potomac River, Riverbend Park has over 10 miles of hiking trails, showcasing the area’s natural beauty. And for any birdwatchers out there, the park offers excellent opportunities to view eastern deciduous bird species in the fall. 8700 Potomac Hills Street, Great Falls
Widewater State Park: If you’re spending all day with your family and grandkids, Widewater State Park will keep everyone busy. Not only are there many trails, but the kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking will make your day more than entertaining. 101 Widewater State Park Rd., Stafford
Reconnect with your friends
Give social media a chance
For many, having friends nearby is a luxury. But even if your friends are states, or even countries, far 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 your friends and family are up to.
If friends are nearby, take advantage and set up a date. It can be hard to make the first move if you haven’t been in touch for a while, but chances are your friends will feel the same way. Start slow and plan a walk or take an outdoor exercise class together.
Follow a routine
After reconnecting with friends, it’s important to maintain that connection. Once you find an activity or a place to see friends, make a plan to see each other weekly or monthly. By holding each other accountable, it will be much easier for you to preserve your friendships.
Discover the 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 few hours to spare or an entire day free, there are countless places in the region to entertain and educate you. Here are some of our favorites:
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is full of history and magnificent views that never disappoint. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mt. Vernon
The Lucy Burns Museum teaches you about the history of the old Lorton prison complex, including the treatment of female 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 Park, Arlington
The Loudoun Museum includes exhibits as varied as Caught in the Maelstrom of Civil War: Loudoun County Divided and Vintage Pursuits: Cultivating a Wine Industry in Virginia. 16 Loudoun St. SW, Leesburg
The Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail will teach you about freedom seekers in Fauquier County. 10 Ashby Street, Warrenton
Spend it and save a lot
Reduce food expenses
If you want to save money, the first thing to check is 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 leftover meals or food that is about to expire on the same shelf. That way, the next time you go to the grocery store or think about takeout, you won’t waste food or money.
Get the same entertainment for less
While turning on the television is often a distracting activity, factoring in the costs of watching your favorite show can have a huge impact. If you’re a fan of Netflix, Hulu, and everything else, check your streaming services’ terms of service and coordinate with your kids and grandkids. Many of these services will allow multiple profiles on the account, allowing you and your family to reduce what you pay.
Enjoy the benefits
It may seem like everything costs money, but that’s not always the case. If you’re a bookworm, stop spending more than $20 on a single book. If you don’t mind paperless reading, downloading the Libby app gets you thousands of free eBooks and audiobooks from your public library. And if you dream of taking a course in history, science, or English, Virginia allows residents over the age of 60 to take college classes at many of our public universities for free.
Organized and orderly
Take out the label maker
Organizing can be a simple task or an exhausting chore. If you want to avoid the latter, start by using a label maker. Snacks in your pantry or cleaning supplies can easily become a mess when you put everything in the same compartment. Try storing these items in small bins and labeling each bin, which will give you more control over the most used parts of your home.
Keep important documents in one safe place
With countless critical documents to track (birth certificates, medical documents, social security statements, etc.), organization becomes a necessity. Keeping your essential documents in one place eliminates the hassle of searching the whole house for just one piece of paper. Look for fireproof safes and use folders to separate documents from each other.
Sort your medications
Like paperwork, tracking different medications and when to take this can become a challenge. A simple solution is to create a medication list that clearly states how often you take each medication, the dosages, and the prescribing doctor. Then, store each of your medications in stackable, labeled containers and keep them near your medication list.
Keep your wardrobe away from chaos
Your closet can turn into a mess in the blink of an eye. Clean up a space with plans to declutter it monthly. Donate clothes you haven’t worn in a while, or sell anything in good condition to a consignment store. Once done, you can use decorative baskets and a label maker to organize hats, belts, ties, scarves, purses, and more.
Lift that body up and move
We all know that exercise is good for the body and the mind. While getting and staying motivated can be difficult, 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 few days out of the week to swap walking for using a low-impact machine at the gym. (Check discounts for seniors at the gym.) But however you choose to get your body moving, start and maintain a stretching routine after your workouts. As we age, our joints become stiffer and our range of motion decreases, but a good stretching routine will help combat these conditions.
Update what’s on your plate
How often your body is active is just one step towards a healthy lifestyle. To make sure your healthy habits transfer over to what you put into your body, it’s important to consider what health issues are most important to you. If you really want to strengthen your bones, incorporate foods containing vitamin D into your diet, such as salmon, eggs and mushrooms. If you’re trying to steer clear of heart disease, reduce your sodium intake in meal preparations. And if you’re just hoping to shed a few pounds, focus on nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods like beans, soy products, and steel-cut oats.
This story originally appeared in our September issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.