A man with a backpack and hiking poles on the side of a mountain.

Hiking Without A Walker and Stereotypes

A few years ago my wife and I were hiking in the Moab, UT area. One day we did a hike in Arches National National Park. The hike we choose had a very easy first mile and then got serious. We had to climb over a large boulder, over 20 feet high, [it did have handholds] and then a short distance on a very narrow walkway with steep drop-offs on both sides. After that, some spectacular trails and views.

After hiking for a bit, we ran into another couple who were probably in their late 40s or early 50s. The women asked me to take their picture. She handed me her phone and after snapping a few shots, I gave the phone back. She then said, “It’s so nice to see people like you are out here doing this. My parents could never do this.” I turned to my wife and said:
Hey, she thinks were really old“. Then I said to the lady the home let’s hike without our walkers on Saturdays. Now on Tuesday’s we have to use our walkers. They do have prune juice waiting for us at the old people’s van. They also have signs for us so we don’t get lost.”

The lady had told me before they were from Boise, ID so I said I was in Boise when I biked across the US a few years earlier when I was 60. I asked if she had ever biked across the US. She said no. I then said my wife and I hiked the Grand Canyon a couple years previous. I asked if she had ever hiked the Grand Canyon. She said no.

Starting to get the hint, the lady said “I apologize if I offended you. It’s just that my parents could never do anything like this.” My wife, hearing for the second time the lady thought she was old enough to be her mother, was now ready to throw her off the cliff and see if she can fly. Since I was pretty sure she could not, it was a good time to say our good-byes.

I suspect the lady was impressed that we were hiking and and felt bad she may have been insulting. Insulting, maybe, but she was guilty of a common stereotype. A stereotype runs throughout our society. It shows up in the media, social interactions, friends and family. Often especially family.

There are variations to the stereotype, but generally state, “your too old to do this”. The lady assumed because she thought we were the same age as her parents, we could not do this. When I biked across the US, there were a group of us in our 60s and 4 in their 70s. I have done multiple bike tours when the oldest riders were in their 80s.

I know many people in their 70s and 80s who downhill ski, cross country-ski, bike, run, walk long distances, play tennis, pickle ball and of course play golf. A couple of years ago a friend of mine celebrated his 80th birthday by hiking 15 miles in the MT Rockies.

Friends and family often assume that at a certain age you should sit in a rocking trail and watch the paint get old. Screw them. Do not let their limitations affect you. Sure you might get hurt doing something. You can also have a heart attack spending all day watching paint dry or even worse, die of boredom.

Yes there are lots of seniors who have slowed down. But I have seen a lot of people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s whose idea of an outdoor activity opening the patio door. They have also slowed down, but no one would walk up to someone who is in that age group and hiking and say, “its so nice to see you doing this“.

If you are a senior and others are trying to put you in a box with lots of limitations because of your age, ignore them. If you are not a senior, take a moment to think about how you treat your parent, grandparents, older family and friends. If you look at them and think, they cannot do something because of their age, that’s your problem, not theirs.

And if your a senior out living your dream and someone comes up to and says “it so nice to someone your age doing this”, look at them and say, “thank you and its so nice to see some one your age out doing something. Most people your age are couch potatoes”. Then walk away.