The image of the over 60s sitting by the fireside with their slippers and a blanket over the knees is wrong and patronising according to a number of recent reports. Age UK – a charity which champions the issues faced by older people – identifies a rising trend in the number of over 60s taking up extreme sports.
The charity puts the increased participation in adventure activities of older age groups down to a number of factors, saying: ‘Reduced working hours, retirement and fewer financial and family responsibilities mean that the opportunity for experiencing new thrills has suddenly become more accessible.’
According to The Activity People – the UK’s largest network of adventure sports – enquires from the over-60 age group are up 19 per cent in 2010 on the previous year. ‘Water sports, hot air ballooning, zorbing, skydiving and quad biking are all activities that are popular with this age group,’ said a spokesperson for the company.
Alongside the rising numbers of over 60s taking part in extreme sports, there has been an increase in the number of injuries in this age group. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) reported that more than a third of the 212 people in British scuba diving incidents requiring medical treatment last year were over 50.
But Aged UK believes the benefits of a more active retirement far outweigh the potential injuries. ‘The more active we are, the more strength and balance we have, and the lower our risk of heart disease and raised cholesterol. Combine physical activity with the great outdoors – where most extreme sports take place – and you’ve got two fantastic ingredients for a happy, healthy lifestyle,’ states the charity.
The charity also highlights the social benefits of extreme sports: ‘Another great thing about getting involved in extreme sports – no matter what age you are – is the social aspect. Widening your friendship group by linking up with other like-minded thrill seekers can be hugely rewarding – especially as meeting new people can become challenging as we get older.’
Activity People’s advice to its older customers is: ‘A lot of activities like hot air ballooning are less strenuous than others. But if you do want to do a strenuous activity such as scuba diving we advise that you get a doctor’s note declaring yourself fit.’
Janet, who’s a retired teacher in her 70s, joined a group of friends to celebrate her birthday with a skydive. ‘It’s something I have always wanted to do and it was wonderful. We had a terrific time,’ she said.
But she discovered they weren’t the oldest skydivers. ‘Our instructor told us he had a woman in her 90s skydiving,’ she said.
According to the New Scientist, the things that make you happy can extend your life by up to ten years. Clearly, skydiving does it for these women. Check out a range of activities for all ages and fitness ranges by clicking here.