Christmas Celebrations with Our Seniors

A magical frosty day. It was below zero degrees, the skies were blue, the fire crackled and here we were with 8 women between 70 and 94 sitting in blankets (and a few with hot-water bottles) around the fire, making willow stars, toasting marshmallows & sweet chestnuts and singing Christmas Carols.

This was a truly special December day for Wild things! as we enjoyed the company of our Silver Saplings on a mid-winter adventure in the woods!

Let’s be clear, the ground was icy and it was a very cold day. At Wild things! we take our responsibilities of looking after our clients very seriously – was it responsible to take the Seniors in our community out into the woods when the ground was frozen on a cold winters day? As the morning progressed, the wind started to die right down bringing with it a reduced wind chill factor. On doing a dynamic risk assessment when accessing the site beforehand, we were able to adjust things so we could drive our participants as close to the camp fire as possible so they didn’t have to walk on icy ground. A few pieces of cardboard were placed down where there was a touch of ice and comfy chairs were put in place to greet everyone. As a result, there was no need to call the day off.

It was a classic situation where the risk-benefit analysis of the day also made it possible.

A risk-benefit analysis is a tool that was at one time adopted by the Highland Council in recognition of the importance of recognising the benefits of an activity against the perceived risk. It was a useful tool as it encourages us all – in a risk adverse culture – to remind ourselves of the benefits of the activity, rather than only looking at what could go wrong. How to manage and minimise the risk, would indeed be looked at, but the key message is:

“don’t let the perceived risks of an activity wrap us all in cotton wool and starve us from experiencing the real juice of life and the benefits of getting outdoors”.

Last Tuesday was a day where we all enjoyed ‘the juice of life’. The day could have been perceived as a high-risk activity… ice/below zero degrees/the elderly. However, our clients made the decision to join us for themselves and we did our bit by managing the risk for them. This resulted in rosy cheeks, sweet-chestnut snacking, joviality and comradery in a way that only time in nature makes possible.

Unfortunately, supporting the elderly in getting outdoors isn’t a scene you often read or hear about. There is much in the press these days about the benefits of outdoor learning and play for children and how we need to do all we can to support this (and at Wild things! we have spent the last 13 years championing this cause).

However, benefiting from, and enjoying nature, doesn’t stop once you leave school.

At all ages, the magic of spending time outdoors is a special thing and can enhance our sense of health and wellbeing greatly whether you are 7 or or 77!

We are looking forward to many more adventures with our Silver Saplings in 2018. Thank you for coming with us and bringing your adventurous spirits along on that day.

A big thank you to our field-work team, Laura our senior administrator and David Elliot, our wonderful Wild things! volunteer, for helping with the delivery of the day. Also much thanks to the Hinterland Trust who manage Wilkies Woods and supported us with access.

Jennie Martin