Although we’re in the 21st century, we’ve been living for a long time based on some very outdated notions. Until fairly recently, many people have retained something of an 18th century mindset, feeling like we should be ready to start winding down some time after the ripe old age of 40. The good news is that we’re finally starting to catch up and realise that we’re not past our best just yet! Life expectancy is constantly rising, and today we’re fully expected to live well into our 70s and 80s, with increasing numbers of lucky ones even celebrating their 90th and 100th birthdays.
Thanks to the wider availability of quality healthcare in the UK, we have more time than ever before, and many of us are deciding to put that time to good use. That’s why we’re actively seeking out excitement and adventure, and it’s why we’re challenging ourselves to experience more. The amount of people over 40 looking for adventure is increasing, with one US-based travel company claiming that older travellers made up just 16 percent of adventure tour bookings in 2001, rising to a whopping 50 percent in 2010.
So what exactly are the over 40s up to? A bit of everything, it seems. From running and whitewater rafting, to charity challenges and exotic travel, middle-aged adventurers are trying it all. ‘Adventure’ isn’t defined by a specific activity or sport. Instead, what we consider to be adventurous depends upon our own state of mind, and our own physical and mental boundaries. Adventure is truly subjective.
What’s the appeal?
So, at a time when some people are starting to think about slowing down and taking it easy, are others beginning to try new things and really push their limits? The appeal is, of course, all down to the individual, but there are perhaps three popular reasons why the over 40s are really going for it:
We want to show the world what we’re made of
The 40+ population is pretty good at succeeding at physical challenges. In the 2014 London Marathon, the average runner aged 40 – 49 years had a finish time that was more than 60 seconds faster than the average runner aged 20 – 29 years. And if we look at data from across the pond, a larger percentage of Boston Marathon runners aged between 40 and 54 complete the race than 18 to 39 year olds. Scientists disagree on when we reach our physical peak, but it could be later than everyone thinks…
We want freedom
Those who have spent their younger years working and raising families may have been living relatively risk-free lifestyles, and while this appeals to some, this safety can feel a little claustrophobic for others. More than half of those retiring this year are taking early retirement; we’re breaking free from the confines of our job responsibilities, and we have the freedom to do what we want, when we want. This is a new and unique opportunity to try all those sports and activities that we’ve always dreamed about.
We want to keep ourselves happy and healthy
We may still feel like we’re in our 20s, but we’re not. We have to face up to the fact that we’re not immune to the natural signs of ageing; nobody is. Cognitive decline can begin as early as 45, while physical decline usually begins in your 50s, but there is no better way to keep the mind and body on top form than to use them, and keep pushing them. Adventure requires mental and physical preparation, commitment, and exertion; pushing your own limits can be genuinely rewarding from a health standpoint, as well as a huge amount of fun.
Read our article Into The Discomfort Zone