As we leave the dock in Cherokee Sound (Abaco – birthplace of my mother) for yet another day of fishing, I can’t help but reflect on the sight and sound of the sea. The sea that evokes a oneness with the universe with a rhythm unchanged since the earth was young. We were heading out from a coast unblemished by man with voices only of waves, sea birds, and trees wind driven by salt spray.
My mentor for the day is my Uncle Kenneth (former Auditor General of the Bahamas and 4-time Olympian as a sailor in the Finn Dinghy). As we leave the harbor, I am on the outboard and my uncle takes his normal position as “captain” on the bow. I am awaiting minor course adjustments via hand signals from him.
We are heading for what my uncle called a “blue hole.” These large caverns are the underwater home of many species of fish. I should note that our boat is not outfitted with any fancy electronics or expensive fishing tackle. We have a couple of spinning rods and my equipment for the day – a coffee can with fishing line rolled on for an easy drop and retrieve at the blue hole.
Changes in course continue until my uncle barks out, “Cut the engine, we are here.” “Here,” I say…”Where exactly is here?” My uncle tells me to look under the boat. To my astonishment, we are right on top of the blue hole. I am amazed. How did he do it? How did he navigate to the blue hole with no GPS? He later would explain…triangulation. He used 3 on shore sites to align us properly. Hmmm…I guess my uncle might know something about linear perspective or size to depict distance. The day of fishing was productive and I think we even ate some of our catch that evening. I will save the bonefish story on the flats of Spanish Wells for another day.
We all have our fishing stories – what a great narrative to pass on to our children or anyone who is willing to listen. I’ll never forget one of the greatest fishing narratives I had to read in the 11th grade, Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The hunt for the whale – in the words of biographer Laurie Robertson-Lorant is “man’s search for meaning in a world of deceptive appearances and fatal delusions.” Perhaps we all have a bit of Ishmael in us – the searching for meaning and the ability to form a narrative around our experiences.
Throughout our lives we experience an increasing number of major life changes, including career transitions and retirement, children leaving home, the loss of loved ones, physical and health challenges—and even a loss of independence. How we handle and grow from these changes is often the key to healthy aging.
At age 63, I am in this transitional period of life after several health challenges (heart attack and being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis). Fishing can be seen as a way to handle these stress related life events. What is better for your psyche than a day fishing on a river or in a boat.
Successful aging has traditionally focused on the avoidance of physical, social, and cognitive loss. You can certainly try to avoid these things, but life and the condition of your body might tell you different. The narrative created by a day of fishing is a critical mechanism through which humans make sense of life’s experiences.
Why is fishing so beneficial for seniors?
- Fishing reduces stress
- Fishing helps with socialization
- Lower risk of falling
- Improves cognitive abilities
- Helps with the planning process
- Allows seniors to stay healthy through humor, laughter, and play
- Find meaning and joy
- Helps seniors stay connected
- Helps keep you active
There’s no doubt that nature has an impact on our mental and physical health. Seniors can be served well by the camaraderie of fishing trips and sharing the fun of the catch. Older adults, veterans and the disabled can benefit from the positive aspects of fishing.
Aging doesn’t have to slow you down or stop your days of fishing or enjoying a boat trip with your friends and family. The key is to find ways to continue doing what you love without compromising health, safety, or comfort.
My MS has limited the use of my legs and I am sure other seniors have some issues to contend with on a daily basis. There are several options to keep that rod in your hand and continue doing what you love.
Here are some options:
- Look for easy access points – almost every state has a list of easy access points on fishable bodies of water. You could also talk with experienced anglers for information.
- Fish from a boat – might be an access issue for some with mobility issues.
- Find a nearby pier – great access, but at times you have to fight the crowds.
- Kayak fishing – sounds like an interesting avenue…I really don’t know that much about this one.
While I am relegated to the shoreline of rivers, ponds, and lakes, I still enjoy being outside and enjoying the day of fishing. Fishing is actually a recommended activity for those who suffer from high stress, inflammation and depression. This is because numerous studies have shown that spending time outdoors and performing an activity that requires mental focus actually causes your blood pressure to decrease, and boosts the immune system.
Additionally, most lifelong fisherman will tell you, the best reason to go fishing is because you can. Whether you’re retired, on vacation, or just sitting around the house, getting out on the water or the shore and engaging in the act of fishing needs no true reasoning at all.
The thrill of fishing lies in the challenge. But there are many who will be quick to profess that it’s not the catching of fish that’s important, but the immeasurable life lessons that you will experience along the way. And let’s not forget the days spent on the river or pier with your son or daughter… quality time you will never forget.
For the moment, I will continue to seek out spots to meet this challenge knowing that I am relegated to the shore while others can wade out to pursue and catch. One thing is for sure, at days end I can enjoy a meal from the Denny’s Senior Menu.