Beyond bowls: Sports choices for the elderly  

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There’s no denying it. The world has a severe case of gerascophobia. We fear aging and growing old — we dread seeing that first grey hair in our twenties. We joke about our aching joints in our thirties, our fine line becoming deep-set wrinkles in our forties. We long to look as good as Nigella Lawson by the time we’re in our fifties, let alone knocking on 60 as Ms Lawson is (and she is knocking on that door with oodles of grace and elegance, we might add). 

Despite the fact the effort is categorically fruitless, we resist growing older with every fibre of our being. Unfairly, it has become a dread, and it’s robbing us of so much. For one, we’re wasting this ‘precious’ youth worrying about growing old, and a lot of this fear is down to being told all the things we won’t be able to do anymore. Things we can’t do the way we used to. While it’s true that aging may make joints less fluid, and may bring a few more aches and pains, the choice to grind to a halt and let those aches become enough to confine us to our armchairs in front of the sofa is, for the vast majority at least, a choice. Studies show that as we grow older, we become more likely to do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. This in turn depletes our overall health further. 

In truth, there’s no reason why older people can’t keep active for the most part, assuming no serious illness or condition holds you back. You might not want to run a marathon (but hey, if you want to, you could), but you don’t have to resign yourself to a slow game of bowls as ‘the only sport old people do’. You might need to play within your limits, but don’t sell yourself short when setting those limits! Your competitive streak is still there; you know it, we know it. And there’s plenty of sports out there with a little more fire behind them for those of us who want to embrace our senior years a little more ferociously. Stairlift supplier, Acorn Stairlift, highlights the best and more exciting sports for our golden years. 

Take aim at archery 

Let’s be clear: this isn’t a pep-talk to try and inspire you to tie up your running shoes and bolt out of the door. If you didn’t like getting sweaty and ‘feeling the burn’ when you were in your twenties and had a few less aches and pains as standard, you’re probably not going to thrive on it in your sixties either. But staying active, competitive, and fit doesn’t mean you have to be gasping for breath. 

If you’re looking for the thrill of competition without donning the sweatbands, scout out your local archery club and go down to watch a session. Archery is a fantastic sporting choice for people who love a bit of competition, but don’t enjoy being pushed to breathlessness. 

Bows are picked to suit the archer, so don’t worry about ‘not having enough strength’ — the amount of strength it takes to draw a bow differs from archer to archer. Some may be quite happy drawing a weight of 40lb or higher, where others may start at 20lb. As you continue, you’ll find your strength builds and you’ll be able to draw more weight anyway. Plus, it doesn’t matter if your draw weight is on the lighter side — the skill and focus required to hit the target is down to you, not your strength. 

Benefit of archery include: 

  • It’s therapeutic — on the shooting line, it’s just you, your bow, and the target. You’re competing against yourself in practice. 
  • It helps sharpen your concentration and focus. 
  • It gently works your upper body muscles, with the repetition of drawing a bow multiple times throughout a round. 
  • You decide how you shoot — you can buy all the bells and whistles with a compound bow, sights, and fancy gear. Or, you can keep it traditional with barebow or longbow styles. There’s really no ‘best’ option other than what you enjoy shooting! 

Partner up in tennis 

Richard Branson swears by it, and he’s done — and still doing — pretty well for himself. Tennis is a highly accessible sport at all levels, and like archery, it’s as competitive as you make it. Whether you want to compete properly, or simply have fun with a friend on the court, tennis will provide a gentle game or a harder workout depending on what you want to get out of it. 

Plus, like archery, tennis is as serious or casual as you want it to be. If you really catch the bug, you can buy a top-of-the-range bat, clothes, trainers, the lot. But really, it boils down to your technique, not how much you paid for your equipment. 

Benefits of tennis include: 

  • It boosts heart and lung health — tennis is getting you on your feet, and even if you’re not running up and down the court and instead have chosen a lighter play style, you’re still working out! 
  • It helps boost mental health — being engaged in the game, concentrating on your opponent and your own plays, it all adds up to keeping your mind active. 
  • It helps prevent osteoporosis — one study has shown that vigorously active women over the age of 65 were 33 per cent less likely to suffer a bone fracture. 

Off the beaten track with running or jogging

There’s something calming about a sport that allows you to be on your own for a bit. Like the other sports on our list, running or jogging can be a solo-activity or a very competitive sport. It’s all down to what you enjoy the most — after all, you’re far more likely to stick at it if you’re enjoying it! 

Running has something of a false reputation of being a young man’s sport. The idea that you need to start out at a certain level of fitness for the sport, or still be youthful, is utterly incorrect. If you’re looking for a running icon to look up to in your elder years, look no further than Ida Keeling. Ida took up running at the age of 64 and is still participating in the sport at 104. In fact, ‘participating’ is something of an understatement, as Ida set a world record at 95 years old! As she told the Guardian, “Age ain’t got nothing to do with it. When you really want to do something for yourself, go and do it.” 


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