No one is too old to go backpacking if they really want to go. It all depends on when and where. If you have to hike up Mt. Everest, well then no. Don’t even think about something that has conquered lesser men and women. If you have to go down into the Grand Canyon on a mule, well then yes. Some seniors are fit as a fiddle and some are frail. You do what you can. For one, outdoor recreation is a spin around the pool with a walker. For another, it is back country skiing at Vail.
So if you get invited, weigh the odds of returning alive, and go for it. Put your best heating pad in your backpack and lace up those old boots. Grandpa is coming! Age is just a number and 70 is the new 50. I have been told that a wiry, muscular 80-year-old can lift weights and ski with the best of them, and the oldest backpacker in the world at 95 has just set off on a two month tour of Europe. Why not camping, fishing, hiking, or other outdoor activity.
Backpacking is for the young at heart – age be damned. This is really a symbolic issue to me about whether seniors can cut it as they advance in years. If you think about it, people do later in life what they did at a younger age. If you never hiked once, why would you at 70? But if you were a regular mountain goat, then why not? Go for it! Staying fit means doing what we love and not succumbing to myths about being too old.
Young people can be pansies about backpacking and they can have no stamina for it. They balk at camping because it is roughing it and they don’t know how to light a kerosene stove. Forget about starting a fire or making coffee over it. Such comparisons are revealing. It is not about age after all, but one’s mentality about physical health. It seems to be a relative matter not always reflective of age.
What constitutes physical health for a senior? How many miles does a man or woman have to walk to prove his or her fitness? There are probably some standard government tests that spell out what you should be able to do at any given age. Let’s guess for a minute. If you don’t pant and gasp after climbing the stairs in your daughter’s home, you may be ready for backpacking. Obviously, you’re going to want a more comfortable backpack than one of the cool backpacks sported by today’s 18-35 year old backpackers, and perhaps something with a set of wheels to make it easier to get around if it all gets too heavy to lug around on your back.
You can certainly get yourself in condition for any trip to the woods. Stretching will keep you limber and the joints oiled. Knee bends, or squats as trainers call them, are required in any workout. Then there is weight lifting to tone and shape the muscles and build strength. You can ride a bike, use a stair stepper, and spin to your heart’s content. You can take Pilates, a modern craze, get down on a mat, lunge lasciviously, and lurch on demand. Seniors do exactly what everyone else includes in their weekly fitness program.
There is no age difference in any activity if the parties involved are up to the task. Ok, you can’t play basketball anymore, but we are talking about common, garden variety backpacking. Many seniors have walked miles of pilgrimage roads in France and Spain that young ones cannot fathom. They have endurance, will power, stamina, and grit. Young people whine and complain, are constantly bored and hungry. Need we say more?
So to answer the question about backpacking, the response is a resounding yes. We advise any and all seniors to get the backpack on and join the ranks of the fit. I am ready to join you.