At 89, Anne Lorimor of Phoenix is a poster girl for the benefits of getting outside and communing with nature. In July, she returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—the tallest peak in Africa.
Oh, and for the second time.
She did it in 2015, at age 85, setting a world record for the oldest woman to do so. This time around, she copped the record for the oldest-person-ever. She’ll make the Guinness Book of World Records, but that isn’t even the best part, she told Senior Planet. The feat, she hopes, will continue to raise awareness for her nonprofit organization, the Child Empowerment Foundation, a pay-it-forward mission that helps kids in need. As she became a Kilimanjaro celebrity, the donations increased. And she hopes it will continue. To read more about Lorimor’s climb and her charity, visit Creating Exciting Futures.
Making the climb
The climb itself was both sweet and a challenge. Everyone wanted their photo taken with her; the hashtag #ImwatchingAnne surfaced. “We took 9 days to go up and down,” she says of her group of eight. Only later did she find out why her chest hurt so much. A fall right before the climb had left her with three broken ribs.
While not everyone is capable of climbing the 19,341-foot Kilimanjaro—or wants to—Lorimor says it’s important to ”stay as fit as possible in mind, body and spirit.” Nature and being outside can help, she knows.
Research suggests she is on to something, with experts finding getting outside in nature, even for as little as 20 minutes, reduces stress hormones and helps people chill out. Getting out into nature can also help boost the immune system, which might translate to less sickness.
And your outdoor pastime doesn’t have to involve mountains. If you’re looking for a outdoor activity that doesn’t require Kilimanjaro fitness, we have some ideas.
Forest bathing may be for you. Sometimes called forest therapy, it involves no bathing and, yes, you participate fully clothed. Trained, certified guides lead the outings, which can be in forests or urban botanical gardens. In Japan, the practice is decades old and called shinrin yoku, which translates to ”taking in the forest.”
“I’ve had people in their 80s come on my walk,” says Ben Page, who founded Shinrin Yoku Los Angeles and is director of training for the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, an organization that certifies guides. “You don’t need any level of fitness whatsoever.” There are more than 700 guides in 46 countries.
“Part of the magic about forest therapy is the invitational nature of it,” Page says. The sessions start with participants introducing themselves, then the invitations. These might include a ”body scan,” relaxing muscles from head to toe, and taking in the sights, sounds and smells, such as waterfalls or plants nearby. Strolling through gardens or the forest is another typical invitation, as is just sitting in a pleasant nature setting. A tea ceremony, during which participants share their thoughts, usually wraps up the experience.
The forest bathing has become popular with older adults, Page says, especially walks at urban arboretums, which often require little travel. Many are rediscovering their long-ago attraction to being outdoors, he says. “One of my colleagues took a man on a [forest bathing] walk who was in his 80s,” Page says, “and he was in tears at the end.” He told the guide about how he felt ”reconnected” with nature.
A woman who came on a forest bathing outing had a walker with a seat. “She moved very slowly,” Page says. “A lot of times the group was going faster than her.” But that’s fine, as people can pick their own pace, he says. “She was very grateful she was moving,” he says. And at the end of the walk, she thanked him and said, “All movement is good movement.”
Other ways to get into nature
Another option that caters to all fitness levels is the Sierra Club, which hosts local hikes and offers options by fitness ability. If communing with nature solo is not your thing, your city may be one of 500 locations that have a Walk with a Doc chapter. To find a forest therapy guide, search here.
How have you connected with nature? Gardening? A walk in the park? Camping? Tell us in the comments!