No, there are no limitations on adventure travel for women over 50. See, wasn't that a simple answer? There are limitations for women of any age with significant illness or mobility impairment; for women with a low level of physical conditioning; and for women who lack flexibility, curiosity, and a sense of adventure. But other than the fact that some illnesses are more common as we age, most of these important qualities are not age-related.
Whether adventure travel is a good choice for you, is more a characteristic of the kind of travel you enjoy than your age. Many of the women who travel with us and many of our guides are over 50.
Having said that, there are a few aspects of getting older that are important to be aware of.
- You can still get in great physical condition, but it takes longer and you lose it faster. So you may need to build in some additional prep time if you are choosing something more physically challenging than your usual exercise routine prepares you for. Recovery time also is more critcal so make sure you take regular rest days.
- Knees tend to be the biggest problem, especially for women who have been active their whole lives. Between the ages of 50 and 65 we are most likely to have problem knees that still aren't bad enough to require knee replacement surgery.
The first thing to do is see if you can rehab your knees. Taking up a strength-training program that includes lunges and squats can help tremendously. Check with your doctor to make sure your knee pain isn't a symptom of something that will be worsened by these exercises, and make sure you get instruction in how to perform them properly. If your knees are really bad, a good physical therapist may be helpful in designing a program that will strengthen the muscles surrounding your knees and avoid further injury.
If you are signing up for a hiking trip, use trekking poles. We actually suggest you use trekking poles for hiking whether or not you have knee problems: they are invaluable for preserving your knees on descents in any case.
But it's also important to be realistic - if you have knee pain on gentle downhills, don't choose a trip with descents over 1000 feet on multiple days. With the proper use of trekking poles and anti-inflammatory drugs, you can get through a day or two. But a week of strenuous hiking or climbing Mt Kilimanjaro will just make you miserable. Fortunately there are lots of other ways you can still have outdoor adventures: kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and horseback riding are all excellent choices.
Some other good news? We've had many women on our trips who have had knee replacement surgery and gotten back to full hiking strength.
- Another change that often accompanies getting older is having your stomach talk back to you when you eat too much too late, or eat the wrong things. And sometimes late dinners just can't be avoided on a trip, especially on an international trip or any adventure trip where unpredictability is just a fact of life. The best way to deal with this is anticipation - plan to eat more at lunch, carry snacks, and practice pushing the plate away at dinner (or carry a plastic sandwich box and put your leftovers in it for that midday meal tomorrow).
- You're more likely to need the facilities in the middle of the night(Joke: You know you're middle-aged when your idea of pulling an all-nighter is making it through the entire night without having to get up). This is one reason why some women have given up camping as they've gotten older. But another way to look at it is the additional opportunity to look at the stars, listen to the night noises, and enjoy the darkness we so seldom experience if we live in a city.
If you're sharing a room, you may worry about disturbing your roommate. But she's probably worried about the same thing!
If you're over 50 and concerned you'll be older than everyone else, you probably won't be. But if you like the idea of a trip especially for women over 50, in 2013 we're offering two of our most popular trips in two slightly different versions, and on one we're extending a special invitation to women over 50. If this sounds appealing to you, check out our Spring Wildflowers and Waterfalls and our Fall Exploring Utah's National Parks trip.
The only thing we can all know for sure is that we aren't going to get younger. And the older we get, the less likely it is that things will get easier. If there is something you've been wanting to try or a place you've wanted to go, but you're afraid you're too old, don't give up on it until you've gotten a realistic assessment from someone impartial about whether that really is beyond your reach. In our experience, 50 is the new 35!