Atlanta Wellness coach shares health benefits of getting outdoors with seniors
According to some studies, taking more steps each day is linked to living a longer life. 74-year-old Atlanta resident Carolyn Hartfield stands as a testament to the benefits of staying active as a senior, and as a health and wellness coach, she’s passionate about sharing her love of the outdoors with other seniors. She has led group hikes in Georgia for more than a decade, and continues to do so once a month. She also leads a “Walk for Wellness” program, offering local and manageable experiences in city parks.
Hartfield joined “City Lights” producer Summer Evans via Zoom to talk more about how she shares the invigorating power of the outdoors.
How a senior city-dweller went gaga for outdoor adventuring:
“I grew up in the city. I was a girly girl, and I had absolutely no interest in the outdoors. However, for my 56th birthday – I am one of those late bloomer Baby Boomers – I was invited out on a hike, and usually, for my birthday, I try and do something I’ve never done before, so I accepted the challenge,” recalled Hartfield. “My first hike ever was at Blood Mountain in the North Georgia Mountains… and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences I had had in my life. I was hooked the first time.”
“I have gone ziplining. I have gone – and I’m not a strong swimmer, but I can swim – I have gone kayaking. I actually, for one of my birthdays, went to visit a friend in Colorado and hiked the Rockies. That was the tallest. And when I say hike, we actually backpacked, and what made that so special was we had a full moon. We didn’t even need our headlamps, because we ended up going up the side of the mountain at night, actually,” said Hartfield. “That was phenomenal for me.”
Discovering fun and connective ways to stay moving:
“[It] goes back a little bit to the last day of my 49th year, when I went to the doctor and I was diagnosed as pre-hypertensive. I’m a previous owner of health food stores, so I thought I was really doing pretty good health-wise, and I just absolutely refused to accept that. And I started walking right after that, and haven’t stopped.”
“My whole key, in my activities, is to have fun. So I don’t grudgingly look forward to it, I excitedly look forward to being in the outdoors and just enjoying nature, and also meeting other people as well. And, I have to tell you, I felt like there must be other people out there like me, and that’s when I started my group.”
How Hartfield made the most of the pandemic, even finding new ways to explore:
“I did not stop my walking. That’s something that’s just a part of me. But as far as group hikes, I actually did it virtually, and I visited various parks around Metro Atlanta,” Hartfield recounted. “I would introduce people to parks that may be in their community that they did not even know about, because I lived where I am now for three years before I discovered the park that’s just a couple miles from me. So people have been joining me virtually ever since, and I just restarted the face-to-face [walks]. So people are starting to come back, and I still have the community of virtual walkers as well. And they walk in place, they walk in their neighborhood, and we’ve built a support system, a comradery, because a lot of seniors, like myself, are single and just don’t get out that much. So we have bonded very well.”
More on Carolyn Hartfield’s outdoor programs and activities can be found on her website, https://www.carolynhartfield.com/