Keeping active in later life can significantly improve your physical and mental wellbeing. We hear from Kathrine Payne Ramblers Scotland about one of their members Pak Yeong Berry, one inspirational lady ticking off Munros in her eighties.
Many people assume that mountaineering is purely the preserve of the young, but for one Stirling octogenarian, life in the hills has begun in her eighties.
And now that she’s discovered hill-walking, Pak Yeong Berry’s only regret is that she didn’t start sooner.
Pek Yeong Berry with her fellow ramblers. Photo: Ben Dolphin
Since joining Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers last year, Pek Yeong has already climbed several big hills, including three of the ‘Munros’ – Scottish mountains over 3,000ft. And she’s got big walking plans for the future.
“I loved walking Ben Chonzie, Schiehallion and Ben Lomond – and I’m looking forward to doing more Munros when the weather allows.
Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) at the top of Schiehallion
“When I climbed my first Munro, Ben Chonzie, it was muddy, raining and cold. It was pretty horrible actually, but it didn’t put me off.
“It’s all going well for me so far. I don’t think about my age much. I just walk. I hope to tackle more and more mountains for as long as I’m capable of doing them, until I can’t anymore.”
Pek Yeong, aged 81, is now a familiar face at the front of the pack on Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers’ weekly walks. Her positive attitude and enthusiasm for life are infectious, and she is an inspiration to walkers of any age.
“The first time I went out with the Ramblers, I was worried that I would hold everyone back, but it was fine. I wasn’t the slowest, put it that way!
“The only thing that matters is your ability, rather than your age. I’m fortunate because I’m very healthy and I don’t have any past injuries. If you’re fit, you can do anything and my age doesn’t bother me at all.
“Walking is a great activity to get involved in. We’ve done a bit of everything: mountains, flat walks, all different difficulties and terrains. It’s all new to me and I like the variety, from leisurely to challenging.”
Before joining the Ramblers, taking exercise had been difficult for Pek Yeong – as she was focused on caring for her late husband, who had Parkinson’s disease.
“Being a carer limited my opportunities to exercise but when I became a widow last year, a very good friend introduced me to the Ramblers. It was the first time I’d walked in an organised group, and I thought it was great.
“Joining Ramblers was one of the best things I could have done, especially at that moment. I joined the group for exercise and fitness, but also as I was widowed and it was something sociable to do. It’s better than playing bridge or some sort of indoors activity.”
It’s not just rambling that keeps Pek Yeong active these days. She also enjoys regular yoga and belly-dancing!
“I feel like I need exercise, and if I go on holiday for a few days I miss it. At the moment, I do cardio, pilates, yoga, belly dancing. I have classes every week day, sometimes twice a day. It’s important to my lifestyle because it keeps me fit, and it gets me out of the house.
“Going rambling on a Sunday is very pleasant. I feel like I’ve achieved something and there’s nothing going on near me on Sundays, so I’d just be on my own otherwise.”
Pek Yeong had done some walking in Malaysia before emigrating to Scotland in the 1970s, but it’s not until joining the Ramblers that she truly caught the walking bug.
She puts this down to company, motivation, and support that walking in a group can provide.
“For me, walking alone is nothing like walking with others. There’s something about being in a group that’s so much more enjoyable.
“The Ramblers is ideal. It’s friendly, and you can assess if the walks and groups are right for you before you join.
“After our walks, we always go and have a cup of coffee. It’s nice to have a chat with a very caring and friendly bunch of people.
Pek Yeong is excited about having future adventures with the Ramblers, and plans to embrace every opportunity that comes her way – weather permitting.
There is no stopping her drive to remain active, and she’s got a lot more walking (and belly dancing!) yet to come.
To find a walk in your area, go to: ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx