By Genie Jennings
While it is not true that our activities ‘keep us young,’ it is true that they keep us from being old. I am a fly fisherman. For as long as possible, I will continue to pursue that heart-jolting tug on the line.
The health benefits of fly fishing are many. It’s a great reason to get outside and move around. It is imperative to have physical activities that you enjoy doing as you get older. Water provides both a spiritual and physical lifting. The essence of the sport requires complete absorption with the fly, whether watching or feeling its progress. This intensity of concentration means that fly fishermen live in the moment. We leave the waters renewed.
But our bodies do not last forever. We can do our best to keep them healthy and strong, but they are going to wear out someday. In order to keep doing the things I love as long as I can — and maybe even trying some new adventures along the way — I’ll have to make some adjustments.
Here are a few tips to overcome the challenges of aging so we can all keep casting a line for as long as possible.
Challenge: Loss of balance
Walking on rocks, slippery and/or uneven ground, and sand is increasingly more precarious as we lose our ability to balance. At the same time, these activities provide the exact stimulation needed to increase one’s ability to balance. A walking stick of some kind is essential. I use my wading staff going in and out of the woods, then let it float so it is readily accessible when I decide to move.
Challenge: Getting cold
We become more susceptible to changes in temperature as we age. Gradual chilling might not be noticed. Your body might be colder than you think. Before you move, shift your attention to your feet and legs. A responsible person might consider limiting the amount of time spent in the water.
Challenge: Loss of stamina
We lose energy more quickly as we age. Becoming exhausted is dangerous. We make bad decisions. Physical problems become intensified. When things start to become harder for us, some changes could be helpful. We can make shorter trips, fish a half-day, or break up the session with a rest period. We can upgrade our accommodations to make things easier.
There are reasons, such as the fear of incontinence, that make it difficult for older people to drink sufficient water. However, lack of water creates the same dangers as exhaustion.
Challenge: Aching joints
Active people are hard on their knees, hips and shoulders. In some cases, they are replaceable, and after surgery and months of therapy life can resume as it was. Again, shorter trips and listening to your body is key.
Challenge: Loss of companionship
This is a major problem as we grow older. Try to find someone to share your activities. If you must go alone, leave a note that includes when you left, your destination and when you expect to return. Take water, your cell phone and a whistle with you. (Do not leave them in your car.) Hire a guide. In addition to knowing the river, techniques and flies to use, your guide will be standing next to you, ready to help if needed.
Old age can, and ultimately will, take many things from us. It cannot take our love of nature and fishing. We must adapt, but we do not have to relinquish the joy fishing gives us. Until we do.
See this Section as it appeared in print here