Dressed in two winter coats and long johns under his corduroy pants, Len Hayes was ready to go dog sledding.
As snow fell gently on his black, fur-lined hat, with the barks of more than a dozen excited huskies ready to run all around, the 86 year old looked at his driver: “You’ve got my life in your hands,” he quipped.
Hayes was one of six residents from The Elden of Bradford who recently ventured north by school bus to Windrift Adventures in Oro-Medonte to take part in an outing aimed at pushing the boundaries of what seniors can do.
“Society limits what seniors can do. We tend to wrap them in cotton batting,” said David McEachern, director of operations for the retirement residence in Bradford West Gwillimbury.
“It gets pretty boring sometimes,” Hayes added.
Before The Elden opened in early January, staff held information sessions about what types of activities the residents would be interested in, and things like dog sledding and hot air balloon rides were popular suggestions, said Jaime Robertson, The Elden’s sales and marketing manager, adding hot air balloon rides are being planned for this spring or summer.
“Why not? The residents are very capable,” she said. “Make it an enjoyable lifestyle and make good memories.”
Even though only a handful of seniors went on the dog sledding trip, it will benefit everyone at the residence, said McEachern.
“We’ll have a bit of fun, some laughs. It’s an adventure. Back in the dining room, (the others will ask), ‘Where did you go? What was it like?’” he said.
“A shared adventure makes for very tight friendships. They’ll go back and laugh about, ‘The dog licked me in the face,’ or whatever it is.”
At Windrift Advenutres, the seniors spent a couple hours split into two groups, taking turns getting dog sled rides. Each senior got a seat on a sled, with their drivers getting a lesson in how to stand on the sled, turn, slow down, and stop.
The two-person teams took off down a snowy track through a wooded area on the Windrift Adventures property, dodging the odd branch and the occasional dog bathroom break.
By the end of the ride, everyone was covered in snow, but the seniors were all smiles.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go in the first place, (but) I loved it. The experience… the forests, the people, it was just a terrific outing,” said Betty Maddocks, 80, of BWG. “I just rode along, going wherever the sleigh went.”
The second person to move into The Elden, Maddocks said these types of adventurous outings help older people.
“As you become a senior … you have to stay active. If you don’t, you sit and twiddle your thumbs.”
Hayes, originally from King City, said dog sledding reminded him of cross-country skiing “out in the bush” years ago.
“I’m going to take it off my bucket list,” he said, adding he hopes to go hot air ballooning later this year. “The more (activities like this) they have the better. One of the reasons to move into a retirement residence is for these types of things.”