Research on the effects on older people of challenging physical activities like traversing high ropes and stand-up paddle boarding have shown positive results. A leading researcher Liz Cyarto from the Bolton Clarke Institute first did a pilot in Victoria in 2014 that demonstrated the feasibility of an immersive outdoor education program for seniors. The 24 participants, aged from 56 to 83 spent three nights at a camp taking part in adventurous outdoor challenges, such as a high-ropes course. Since that time Ms Cyarto has been involved in the running of several adventure camps for seniors.
One of the camps, held on the Mornington Peninsula, had 32 seniors aged 61-84 years take part in the two-night outdoor experience with a focus on activities that helped them to set goals that would improve their wellbeing. Ms Cyarto tells the story of one participant who had mobility issues who set a goal to get into a kayak – just get it in it, not paddle around; she achieved the goal and cried with joy when she accomplished it. It helped her to get back on her walking program when she returned home. It is so inspiring to me to hear of this type of research and seeing progress being made to help ageing people achieve the best quality of life possible. I interact with many elderly people as an Aged Care Placement Consultant and am always concerned for their continuing welfare.
The researcher found that older people were open to trying new challenging activities and said “The main message is people are realising that they have the capacity for learning new things and having the physical abilities to do them; it’s surprising to them.” The thrill campers get when walking on a high beam held only by ropes, the joy of morning walks on the beach, bush walking, archery, kayaking and singing around the campfire, has boosted their confidence through facing challenges, connecting with nature and their fellow campers.