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Medicare in the Wilderness: Enhancing Camping Adventures for Aging Individuals

Silhouette of Person Standing Near Camping Tent

As you get older, it’s important to stay active and continue doing the things you love to keep your mind healthy and engaged. Getting outside is especially important to keep your mind and your body refreshed.

That said, camping can still come with its risks, especially as you get older. While there is no reason why you can’t still enjoy the great outdoors as a senior, it’s important to make sure you take extra precautions to keep yourself safe and protected. Having the right health insurance, for example, is crucial in case of any medical emergencies.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of camping as a senior, the risks you should prepare for, and offer tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time on your camping trip. 

The Benefits of Camping for Aging Adults

Everyone can benefit from spending more time in nature. There has been enough evidence to show the healing powers of being outdoors that doctors are starting to prescribe nature as a form of therapy to boost mental and physical health outcomes.

As a senior, camping in nature can offer you a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, including:

  • Encouraging more exercise and helping with mobility
  • Giving a boost of vitamin D from spending more time in the sun
  • Encouraging better sleep after a long day of physical activity
  • Providing stress relief and mood enhancement
  • Providing cognitive stimulation
  • Fostering social connections with other campers

Camping is also a great way to bond and spend more time with family. Camping is not just for the kids. If you have family that enjoy taking their kids camping, consider asking them if you can join. This is a great way for you to spend more time with your family and create core memories for everyone to cherish.

Know the Risks and Make Sure You’re Covered (Medically)

While we encourage you to spend time in the great outdoors, it’s vital that you also understand the risks so you can keep yourself safe. You could get dehydrated, fall and get hurt, burn yourself on the fire, have a dangerous interaction with a wild animal, get bit by an insect, have a reaction to a plant, or you could have a health emergency from an underlying condition.

If you plan on camping, it’s important that you understand the basics of Medicare and are enrolled in the right health insurance program to ensure you are protected in case something goes wrong.

Not all Medicare plans are the same. There is Medicare Part A, B, C, and D — all of which will provide different types of coverage. There are also supplement plans which can cover gaps, such as copayments and coinsurance. Make sure you know what kind of coverage you have and keep your Medicare card on hand when you go camping in case you experience a medical emergency.  

Camping Tips for Seniors Wanting to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Once you are covered by a good Medicare plan, it’s time to start planning your camping trip. We’ve pulled together some helpful tips to ensure you have a safer and more enjoyable time in the great outdoors.

1. Plan Ahead and Pack the Essentials

Planning can be half the fun when it comes to camping, as it can help you start to think of all the enjoyable things you’ll get to do. That said, it’s important to stay focused when planning a camping trip so you don’t forget any crucial essentials. A good checklist should include:

  • Medications
  • Sunscreen
  • Assistive devices (hearing aids, canes, medical alert wearables, etc.)
  • A first-aid kit
  • The right clothing (depending on the weather)
  • Water
  • No-prep food
  • Cooler
  • Sunglasses and a hat
  • Flashlights and lanterns
  • Trash bags
  • Insect repellent
  • Matches or lighters
  • Wood and fire starters
  • Camping chairs
  • Tent and tarp (to place under the tent)
  • Air mattress
  • Sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets

It might also be a good idea to bring your own toilet paper in case the bathrooms are out, which can happen during peak camping seasons. Depending on your needs, you should also pack any other personal care items you might want to make your camping trip more comfortable. 

2. Make Sure You’ll Have What You Need to Stay Warm

Warmth is important when camping as a senior as you likely get cold more easily. Even if the days are warm, temperatures will drop at night and it’s not wise to keep your fire burning all night just to stay warm. So make sure you pack what you need to stay cozy, such as warm clothing and socks, hats and gloves, a good sleeping bag, and even some extra blankets.

3. Comfort is Key

While you might have been able to sleep on the ground as a kid, it’s not likely something you’ll want to do now that you’re older. So make sure you have what you need to be comfortable and avoid hip, back, or any other kind of pain while camping. This can include investing in a quality tent, camping chairs, and a good air mattress. It’s also worth considering investing in an RV if you are going to make camping a common occurrence.

4. Plan for Easy Meals

If you want to invest in nice cooking equipment for your camping trip, that’s up to you. However, to make it easier on yourself, you might want to stick to the basics with no-prep food. A few examples include yogurt with granola, muffins, hard-boiled eggs, pre-made sandwiches, cured meats, cheese, crackers, protein bars, pre-made salads, nuts and fruit, and pre-made pasta salad. 

5. Opt for a Family-Friendly Campground

When planning where to camp, family-friendly campgrounds are best as they will have more amenities to keep you safe and comfortable. This likely means plenty of shade, easy access to bathroom facilities, potable water, electricity hookups, and even on-site staff to help in case of an emergency.

6. Protect Yourself from Wild Animals

Even if you are camping in a populated, family-friendly campground, it’s still wise to be mindful of wild animal encounters, particularly bear encounters. Always keep your eyes and ears open and take precautions to bear-proof your vehicle and your campsite. This means keeping your food and trash in a locked or sealed container, keeping food and trash out of your sleeping area, and keeping coolers and other food items out of reach and sight. 

Wrapping Up

Finally, make sure you have an emergency plan in case something happens to you. If you have medical alert devices, make sure you wear them at all times. Avoid camping solo, but if you do, make sure you inform loved ones of your plans and have a way to get in touch with them. If possible, also avoid camping in remote areas where you won’t have cell service or easy access to medical care.

If you are intent on going somewhere remote, you might want to consider getting internet in your car. That way, even if you don’t have cell service, you can use Wi-Fi to call or message someone in case of an emergency.

These things are said not to scare you, but to ensure you are fully aware and prepared so you can keep yourself as safe as possible. A little extra planning can go a long way toward keeping you protected and ensuring you have an enjoyable trip.


Written By

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, aging, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.


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