I have been a hill-walker for over 50 years, walking all over the world but particularly in Wales, Scotland and Lake District. When I was in my teens I would meet people of all ages out walking and enjoying the great outdoors. However, over the years I saw the involvement in walking decrease. The decline had been inversely proportional to the development of home technology (Satellite/cable TV and the Internet) and social media
It was when I turned 60 that I realised how little encouragement there was to get the ‘older generation’ out walking. Most of the Government funding, through advertising and publicity, had concentrated on the younger generation and improving their health and well-being.
This was the catalyst I needed to launch this blog and start championing for the greater involvement of over 60’s in walking and hill-walking in particular. This was despite suffering from arthritis, back pain and having had a stroke 4 years ago.
So it was absolutely delightful to read the latest report from Sporting England on the current state of the nations activity levels. Across the board increases in walking and general exercise have been amazing but, for me personally, none more so than what has been happening to my target audience.
One of the findings from the report showed that:
Older people are getting more active, with the number of 55-74 year olds meeting the 150 minutes threshold increasing by 1.3%, to 58.3%. This is important given that we have an ageing population. Brisk walking, including hill and mountain walking, appears to be driving this increase.
It is just fantastic to realise that many older people are choosing to spend their leisure time in the great outdoors. This is testament for targeted advertising campaigns, the excellent work of the Ordnance Survey and their award-winning Get Outside Programme and, hopefully to some extent, the production and promotion of blogs such as this one.
This sentiment is summed up nicely by Sport England:
The figures also show the huge importance of investing to tackle inactivity and the inequalities between different groups in society, which was highlighted in the Government’s strategy Sporting Future. It’s why Sport England’s 2017-21 strategy has, for the first time, allocated 25% of its investment to tackling inactivity.
But this report not only shows a great success for the older generation, but for walking in general. Because walking has remained the most popular activity, with 18.6m people walking for leisure and 14.5m walking for travel – an increase of almost half a million in one year.
There is still a long way to go, so it is important that we do not rest on our laurels but keep pushing the cause for being on the hill rather than over the hill. The over 60’s are a rapidly growing demographic which will continue to put a great strain on the NHS as it grows. It is imperative that we work hard to encourage, inspire and coerce all over 60’s to do some exercise and, for those who are able, to get out onto the hills and enjoy the great outdoors.
I will leave the final word to Sport England – and a sentiment that we should all be proud of:
61.8% of the 16+ population in England – are active. (emphasis added by author)