Inspiring Stories

Carolyn, 73: Adventure is Out There

Meet Carolyn Hartfield. She’s one of the 2022 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes, and she’ll be sharing updates on her health & wellness journey through the rest of this year. Today, Carolyn is taking us through her fitness story — transforming from an inner-city girl with no interest in sports or outdoor activities, to being a health advocate, athlete, and Outdoor Adventure Leader.

When it comes to athletics, I consider myself a “late bloomer baby boomer.” I grew up in inner city Detroit, Michigan.  In my younger years, I was never an outdoors girl. It wasn’t until decades later, after leaving a professional career in the corporate world, that I became more aware of living a healthier lifestyle. I had the opportunity to purchase a health food store, and I began “savoring in the spices of life!”

A life-changing experience

In this new stage of life, I began exploring a variety of athletic activities. When I was 50, I co-organized and played with the first senior women’s basketball team to represent Michigan in the National Senior Games. Six years later, after relocating to Atlanta, Georgia, I went hiking for the very first time in the North Georgia Mountains — I can truly say it was a life-changing experience!

“I truly started living my second childhood, and I am loving every minute of it.”

Hiking was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’d ever had, and I decided to keep the momentum going. At 61, I became certified as an Outings Leader with the Sierra Club so I could lead group hikes — something I continue to do to this day, 12+ years later. I recently expanded my activities to include race-walking, camping, bike riding, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, spelunking, tree climbing, zip-lining, and other fun outdoor sports. (Yes, all of that, really!) I truly started living my second childhood, and I am loving every minute of it.

It feels good to be an OPAL…

Through my own wellness research, I have found many scientific studies showing that as we get older, being active is paramount to living a rich, independent, long life. As an Outdoor Adventure Leader, I focus primarily on active older adults, who I refer to as OPALs: Older People with Active Lifestyles. In the world of geology, opals are known to be an extremely precious gem. They are the world’s most valuable commercially available gemstone; yet they are complex, with an exponentially large range of qualities and unique individualities. So tell me… doesn’t that sound like us? It feels good to be an OPAL!

“If you would like to join me on a virtual walk, mark your calendar for Wednesday, May 18 at 3:00pm EDT”

I now lead weekly walks, open to the public, to introduce seniors to local walking and hiking paths. My walks are sponsored by AARP Georgia and the Walk with a Doc program. Though I am not a medical professional, I lobbied Walk with a Doc to start a program for health advocates such as myself, and the “Just Walk” program was created. Since the pandemic, my walks for wellness are virtual. If you would like to join me on a virtual walk, mark your calendar for Wednesday, May 18 at 3:00pm EDT when I will be leading a live session right here on! Click here for all the details.

Get out there!

I find great joy in sharing my love of the outdoors with others, knowing they will reap a myriad of wellness benefits in the same ways I have. Whether you’re hiking or racewalking, enjoying a leisurely stroll, or even sitting in the shade under a tree, there are many health benefits just from spending time outside. Broaden your activities to include the great outdoors — if a “late bloomer baby boomer” can do it, so can you!

In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!


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