As the years have rolled by, I have noticed a change in my body. I am no longer able to do some of the things that I did as a teenager or even in my 30’s and 40’s. Years of extreme sports and adventuring have taken their toll. Joints ache through arthritic pain, damaged and worn cartilages, tiring muscles – all have contributed to the gradual slow down.
Yet my own Mother, at 85, is as active as she has ever been, and her mind is as sharp as a razor. She refers to her ‘old folk’ that she looks after, as a volunteer at a local home, many of whom are 10-15 years younger than her.
Then I look at other people of a similar or even younger age and I see many different states of health. It is very evident that all people do not age in the same way, and that some will need assistance long before others. But should we ‘write someone off’ because they have ailments in their later years?
What we should be doing is creating environments and opportunities that allow everyone to be able to do what they value throughout their lives. Being free of illness or infirmity is not a requirement for a good life. Many older people have at least one health condition that, with medication and care, can have little influence on their wellbeing.
This is referred to as Healthy Aging.
Healthy aging is defined by the World Health Organisation as: “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age”.
They further define Functional Ability as: “having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value. This includes a person’s ability to: meet their basic needs; to learn, grow and make decisions; to be mobile; to build and maintain relationships; and to contribute to society”.
So never think that because you, or someone you know who is older, has an illness or disability that they cannot take an active role in some outdoor pursuit. I always remember the old saying :“With age comes wisdom”
We must not let this wisdom go to waste. It is important that you involve everyone in what you are doing.
If you are planning a local group walk but have some members of your community who cannot walk very far, if at all. Invite them to join the committee and get involved in organising or fundraisers. There is a voluntary group in Wiltshire who maintain local footpaths. Not all of them can walk the paths but they can all help clear the paths and keep them open.
Everyone needs a purpose for life and each and every one of us has a responsibility to help facilitate this. A few years ago, a good friend of mine, who was wheelchair bound, used to assist me on my map reading courses. He would do the bulk of the classroom training, whilst I dealt with the outdoor practical sessions. We both had abilities and used them to achieve our goal.
Remember you do not have to be active to be involved in an outdoor pursuit. Many events require organisers, marshals, timekeepers or medal hander-outers. Everyone can be involved in a physical pursuit just not necessarily all in the same way.
I asked several older friends of mine how they keep active, in-particular what they plan to do after they retire. I have taken the most popular ones to come up with a top 5 things to do towards healthy ageing and my thoughts on how they could achieve these.
For me that was taking up hill-walking. “But we haven’t walked very far in years!” In that case start with a few gentle walks around the neighbourhood slowly increasing the distance and length of time spent outside. When you feel comfortable look for your local hill and walk to the top. Again, slowly increase the height of the hills you walk up and before you know it you will be heading for the higher hills and the longer walks.
This links in well with the first tip. However, the person who suggested this had spent all his life either sat in his car or behind a desk – he was very unfit. I had suggested nice short walks along the river on a sunny Sunday afternoon, even a long walk to a pub – but all to no avail. Until his Grandson said he was doing a walk with his Beaver Colony and wanted Grandad to come along as well. Inspired by his Grandson’s wish to walk he went and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Now he walks for pleasure – so if you are that unfit and need inspiration look no further than your grandchildren.
At an age when one would expect to stay in a 5-star hotel, or at the very least a caravan, this was a surprise. I was brought up camping and have done it all my life, so the response was straight forward – get yourself along to the local camping shop and buy a tent and a sleeping bag. However, do not head for the hills on your first night, instead spend a night at a local campsite or even the back garden. However, be warned - your mind may have happy memories of camping, but reality has changed – in which case donate the tent and sleeping bag to your grandchildren!
This was a difficult one as it’s been a long time since I was a child! Then I recalled watching a couple of parents with a youngster, maybe 4-5 years old. They were all having a lovely walk, the parents were talking and enjoying the scenery whilst their daughter was ahead of them jumping into every puddle she could find. As I passed them, I said, “she’s enjoying herself” and the response was “it’s what children do”. It was simple – just copy what kids do – but most importantly, have fun.
Most people in the UK spend their summer holidays jetting off to hotter and more exotic locations. They never give a thought to the beauty and splendour of the British Isles. Yet this wonderful group of islands perched on the edge Europe has some of the best places in the world to visit. Apart from our great heritage there are the 15 majestic National Parks – Britain’s breathing spaces. Sure, stay in your 5-star hotels, but spend your days exploring, driving, walking, sailing, doing whatever you fancy in one of these great national treasures.
To be perfectly honest these five things apply to all age groups, not just the retired. We are a nation where a quarter of the British public won’t walk anywhere that takes more than 15 minutes and three quarters of us won’t walk to work or the shops. We are an unfit nation with figures showing that 11.3 million people do less than 30 minutes’ activity a week.
“Be inspired, be determined, be active – GetOutside and enjoy this wonderful land we call home.”
Be inspired to do more and go further by equipping yourself with the best tools for the job. Our maps are built on 220 years of experience - we keep walkers, runners, cyclists and more safe in the great outdoors all year round.
Available from local outdoors retailers, bookshops and our online OS shop.Go to the OS shop