PASTIMES and hobbies fall into several categories. There are those that people say they find relaxing like fishing, gardening and knitting, all of which would drive me to distraction. Then there are others like cricket and snooker which do drive me to distraction. Then there’s a third group, whose appeal to anyone over 20 I find the most baffling of all: extreme sports.
And yet nearly a fifth of all injury claims resulting from dangerous sports were made last year by Britons aged 70 or over compared to just 5 per cent back in 2006!
While scuba diving, surfing, mountaineering, parachuting, skiing and even base jumping are more usually associated with fizzy-drink-swilling teenagers and 20-somethings, they have seen a mass influx of baby boomers and their parents.
But now insurers and adventure specialists are reporting a dramatic rise in injuries, serious incidents and fatalities among those of retirement age participating in such activities.
Specialist insurer Perkins Slade, which insures groups such as the British Mountaineering Council, said the high proportion of claims came despite the over 70s making up just 5 per cent of its customer base.
According to Richard Doubleday, director of sport at Perkins Slade, “The participation in hazardous activities is much safer than what it was five years ago. The reality is that 70s is the new 50s – we are much fitter and aware of opportunities to take advantage of these sports. Taking part in hazardous activities isn’t cheap and it is often only later on in life that you have the means to do it.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking up exciting activities as one ages.
However, it must always be tempered with common sense and the degree of responsibility that should come with age.
The soaring accident rate (more than a three-fold increase in just over three years) shows not just a reluctance to accept we get slower and weaker with age, but puts an unnecessary burden on already-burdened health services and insurance costs for others.
For those who can afford it and take the appropriate precautions regarding any possible increase in frailty (Sir David Attenborough, for instance, at the North Pole earlier this year), it’s great to take some outdoor exercise, but do consider carefully what you intend to do before you sign up for that activity that ends up testing – and probably exhausting – the facilities of your local A & E Department!
So, though it may sound a bit John Wayne-ish, maybe I won’t after all be afraid to take chances with extreme sports when I’m in my 70s. All things considered, I’d far prefer an adrenaline-fuelled, sudden death disappearing with less trace than Lord Lucan than a slow, lonely decline in decrepitude eventually collapsing on the floor screaming for the defibrillator paddles!
Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca