Extreme sports for extreme retirees

Last updated on 21 September 2023

While some older people lose the capacity to undertake sports, others are more than fit to take on whatever extreme sport they can find. [Source: iStock]

Key points:

  • If you are physically fit and mentally prepared, then you are ready to go
  • Extreme sports do require you to have some level of fitness, you might have to prepare and train beforehand
  • Your insurance may not cover you for extreme sports, so make sure you aren’t going to be caught out if there is an accident

More often than not, retirees are usually first in line to jump out of a plane or at the head of a white water rafting boat. Anything to tick an activity off their bucket list!

While some older people lose capacity to undertake sports, others are more than fit, in both body and soul, to take on whatever extreme sport they can find.

This is especially the case for people that have spent all their lives living to the extreme and can’t do without that adrenaline rush. It’s hard to remove a passion like that even if you are older and more frail.

There are many iconic older people that are still doing extreme sports to this day!

British 110 year old, Fauja Singh, is a well-known marathon runner who has undertaken huge competitive running events as a centenarian.

He is considered the world’s oldest marathon runner, participating in Marathons in Mumbai, Toronto, Hong Kong and London. Some of these marathons can take up to eight hours for him to finish! His last marathon was in 2013, when he was 102. Fauja still keeps active with light exercise to this day.

Here are some common extreme sports that older people want to strike off their bucket list:

Marathon running

Considered a strenuous sport even for younger people, there are many famous 80 – 90 years olds who have managed to continue running in marathons. And they are giving the younger participants a run for their money!

Research author from the British Heart Foundation Fellow, Dr Anish Bhuva, found that older marathon participants had a big reduction in aortic stiffness, which can be a big contributor to cardiovascular issues, like strokes or heart diseases.

The participants in the study trained for up to six months and older runners were found to have gained all the benefits you would see in an elite athlete.

Considering as you age you have a decline in your physical abilities and functions, this is a pretty good example of how any exercise can make a big difference.

Extreme hiking or trekking

Hiking is a common activity many people do around the world and usually wouldn’t be considered an extreme sport.

However, some hikes are a little bit more extreme than others, for instance, trekking through the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea or hiking up to the base camps on Mount Everest in Nepal or Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Even the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is quite a hike; it takes nearly three days and is incredibly hilly.

But who doesn’t like a good challenge, especially when the view is going to be spectacular at the end.

Ninety year old Japanese skier and alpinist, Yuichiro Miura, is known for being the older person to climb Mount Everest.

He first climbed the world’s highest mountain when he was 70 years old, and became the oldest person to climb Mount Everest. He completed the climb again when he was 75 but didn’t make a record. He became the world’s oldest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest again when he climbed the mountain for a third time at 80.

Yuichiro was able to climb the mountain at 80, even after having four heart operations and fracturing his pelvis!

His dream to climb Mount Everest again couldn’t be stopped by his age.

Barefoot skiing/water sports

Water skiing and waterboarding is an Australian river pastime. It’s fast and exciting with loads of jumps and aerial tricks, if you have the talent for it.

Many older skiers and boarders have been involved in the sport since they were children and don’t want to stop. It’s a very body intensive sport and is a great way to keep fit.

If you didn’t think water skiing or waterboarding is extreme enough, some people do it with no boards at all! Just bare feet!

Barefoot skiing is a cult favourite among avid water sport lovers. ‘Barefooters’ describe barefoot skiing like taking a hot blade to the underside of their foot.

An extreme sport that requires skill, a fast boat, and a go-lucky attitude, barefoot skiing has to be seen to be believed.

Garry Barton from Maitland is one of Australia’s oldest and most famous barefoot skiers at 76 years of age.

He has competed around the world during his youth for Australia. In 2019, he was inducted into the International Waterski and Wakeboard Hall of Fame.

While Garry is unable to continue barefoot skiing due to health conditions, he recently did a barefoot ‘hanging’ on the side of a boat which brought him a lot of joy.

SCUBA diving

Many people don’t know that SCUBA diving can be quite dangerous. You need to be a good swimmer and able to haul a bit of heavy equipment.

Otherwise, SCUBA diving can be great fun and you can see the ocean bed and view places like the Great Barrier Reef like you have never seen it before.

If you are healthy, there should be nothing stopping you from strapping on some flippers and going on an ocean expedition.

In 2018, a 95-year-old World War II veteran broke a world record, which happened to be his own record, for SCUBA diving.

Ray Woolley from Britain dived for nearly 50 minutes to explore a shipwreck off the shore of Cyprus.

Skydiving or bungee jumping

Skydiving and bungee jumping can be terrifying for most people, but for older people, they may have some concerns before taking the plunge.

Both extreme sports don’t have a maximum age limit, however, some providers of these services may ask you for a certificate of health from your doctor if you are over 60.

For skydiving, you don’t need to be extremely physically fit, but you should have reasonable mobility, especially to be able to undertake a safe landing.

Additionally, a healthy heart would be highly recommended because as you can imagine, the big jump can really get the heart racing!

One of the world’s oldest skydivers hails from Athelstone, South Australia! Irene O-Shea was 102 when she jumped out of a plane above Langhorne Creek.

Not only that, Irene didn’t take up skydiving until she turned 100, proving that age is no barrier and it’s never too late to start a new hobby.

Insurance and extreme sports

If you are looking to be insured for extreme sports, look at the fine print very carefully. Most travel insurance actively excludes insurance for any extreme sports you undertake, even if it is seniors travel insurance.

Insurance for extreme sports also comes with a lot of paperwork, especially around your age, health and training.

As you can imagine, life insurance organisations are hesitant to insure older people who want to do extreme sports. Obviously, there is a large variable that something may go wrong, which you wouldn’t normally find with normal sport.

When looking into insurance, make sure you fully understand what extreme sports are included and excluded. As well as if they assess on a case by case basis. It could even mean you have to pay a higher premium just to be covered.

What extreme sport do you want to strike off your bucket list? Tell us in the comments below.

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