When my grandson and daughter first suggested going to Tanzania and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as a family, I had never so much as climbed Snowdon before, let alone the tallest mountain in Africa. Indeed, the only really physically gruelling activity that I can remember ever partaking of was childbirth – and I'm a little bit out of practice at that, having not done it for almost 40 years!
As a 68 year old woman, there is about as much expectation of you climbing Kilimanjaro as there is of you having another baby. When I tell people my plans, I can see their eyes widening and know that they’re wondering whether I realise what exactly I am letting myself in for. Possibly not, but that’s not the point. The fact is, this new challenge has made me feel more alive than I have in years, and I want to inspire other people like me to pick up the baton and do something that challenges them. It doesn't have to be mountain climbing, just something that excites them.
Times have moved on since my mother-in-law was my age and people are living longer, yet society still seems to deem us ‘old' the moment we hit 60!
I know I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be able to do something like this, especially alongside two other generations of my family. I lost my own mother as a child, and my husband’s parents (who were like a second family to me) would never have imagined making it to Tanzania. It just didn't happen in those days. Having said that, I know my mother-in-law would have relished the chance to join us and so have persuaded my husband to let us take her - or at least some of her ashes – up Kilimanjaro with us, so we can scatter her at the top. Despite rarely venturing out of her council house in rural Scotland, I think she’d be pretty pleased to join in all the fun!
Times have moved on since my mother-in-law was my age and people are living longer, yet society still seems to deem us ‘old’ the moment we hit 60! If we just accept that, crack open the Horlicks and head off on another cruise holiday, we’re fulfilling the ageist stereotypes that still seem so prevalent. Retirement should be a time to regain independence, seize new opportunities and try new things. So that is why, after all these years, I am preparing for my biggest challenge since having children – to inspire others, especially the younger generations of my family, and to show that life is for living, whatever your age.
We’re heading up Kilimanjaro with Exodus Travels in August and I’ll write another post afterwards to let you know how we get on. If you’d like to follow our adventure in the meantime, please check out our blog