For Carolyn Hartfield, having fun is integral to how she chooses to spend her day. At just 35 years old, she decided to quit her job in marketing to purchase a health food store. Why? She thought it would be exciting. So, she went for it.
Owning a health food store gave her the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and help others understand what it meant to make good food choices and be healthy. “It was a natural fit,” said Carolyn. And while health was important to her, she was not particularly active herself. Well into her adult life, she focused more on health food rather than on being active.
It wasn’t until she turned 52 that she decided to make being active a part of her life. She decided to join the first Senior Women’s Basketball team to represent Michigan in the National Senior Games because she thought it would be fun. Turns out, she loved it. While on that team, Carolyn (and the team) went on to win gold medals in various tournaments around the country including the National Senior Games and the World Senior Games. 20 years later, she joined Atlanta’s first Senior Women’s Basketball team to represent Georgia in the National Senior Games.
“It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I ever had.”
And Carolyn didn’t just stop at basketball. At 56, she went on her first hike to Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. She said, “It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I ever had.”
With her new-found love of the outdoors, Carolyn decided to go all in. Like with her health food store, she wanted to introduce others to healthy habits. So, she became a certified Outings Leader through the Georgia Sierra club. She leads monthly hikes in the North Georgia Mountains. It’s been over ten years, and she has introduced countless individuals to hiking.
But for some older people, getting out there and participating in activities like these might be intimidating. So how can people, including older people, get started and continue to be active? Carolyn’s advice is simple: “Keep an open mind and try something new.”
Carolyn makes sure that she practices what she preaches: “Every year for my birthday, I try a new exciting and adventurous challenge. That is how I got into most of the physical activities that I do.” That’s how, even into her seventies, Carolyn has picked up activities like hiking, cycling, backpacking, camping and whitewater rafting. She’s even conquered her fear of ziplining.
Carolyn wants you to get out and get active too – and it doesn’t have to be whitewater rafting! Being active helps to manage balance, retain strength and is important to protecting against falls. According to a report released by the National Senior Games Association, “only 10% of senior athletes have a fall in a given year,” as compared to 30% of the general population.
Carolyn recommends walking as a good option because you can walk at your own pace and choose your distance. To help people get started, Carolyn suggests joining a community walking program. For example, she hosts groups likes Older People with Active Lifestyles (OPALs) and Atlanta African American Baby Boomers, as well as Just Walk, a program of the national Walk with a Doc, sponsored by AARP. She also suggests checking out other opportunities such as the Georgia Golden Olympics, Silver Sneakers and the Atlanta Track Club for additional opportunities. She just wants you to get moving!
It doesn’t matter your pace, it just matters that you go: “I may be slower than I used to be, but I am steady and tenacious in all my activities!”
“I may be slower than I used to be, but I am steady and tenacious in all my activities!”
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, keep yourself and others safe when exercising outside by following the CDC’s guidelines for visiting parks and recreational areas during COVID-19.
Note: This interview was conducted prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage everyone to continue practicing social distancing measures per the CDC’s guidelines.