If you are over 60, you are likely to enjoy the Camino as if you were in your early thirties. Your age is generally in your mind and you are as old as you allow yourself to feel.
Each year the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela publishes the number of pilgrims that have received the Compostela for that year. Since there are pilgrims that don´t care about the Compostela and never pick it up, it is difficult to know the exact number of pilgrims doing the Camino. Even so, we can estimate some interesting percentages such as the number of pilgrims who are over 60. Pilgrims in 2013 who received the Compostela were 215.880. The percentage of over-60 people was 15,50% (33.461 pilgrims). Nowadays most of over-60s are in good health but they may not be experienced long distance hikers. Therefore, they are usually concerned about the distance they can reasonably walk in any given day or about the risks that their bodies can run.
The over-60 pilgrims who have experienced the Camino Francés , Primitivo and Portugués usually suggest to follow these tips:
- Don´t hurry. Try to start the Camino in a relaxing way so slower is best in the beginning. Then you can walk faster gradually increasing you mileage. Everybody doing the Camino Francés says that the first week is critical to the rest of the Camino. Let your body get used to the everyday walking, climbing and backpacking or you will have problems later with your back and knees.
- Don´t have your pack over 10% of your body weight. The lighter your backpack the better. You don´t need much and if you need something you can buy it or borrow it.
- Take care of you body. Especially, take care of your feet, back and knees. Take suitable boots (bigger than your usual size to prevent swelling), wear two pair of socks (a light weight wicking inner sock and a heavier wool outer sock), take bandaids, bandage… Be sure you know how your body will react to seven or nine hours each day of walking. Some stages are difficult. You can do it but you have to know that it´s not a piece of cake.
- If you can afford it, avoid “albergues” whenever hotels, casas rurales or hostals are available. Albergues are fine but some senior trekkers need quieter and more relaxing places to unwind after a long day of walking.
- Train for a reasonable time before doing your Camino. You can train at the gym on a treadmill or simply get used to walking one or two hours per day at least for 3 months before doing the Camino. Try to train hard since nobody knows how hilly the hike is until they walk the Camino.
- Take a day off every ten days or so, especially if you can take your break in an interesting city or town. Remember that the Camino is not a race. Enjoy the scenery, nature, culture, friendship, gastronomy…feel yourself at home.
- Take your time and don´t mind if you are slower than others or if you have to take a bus or a taxi several times for short distances once you have walked enough and your body is telling you to stop. Taking a bus or a taxi is not cheating, all depends on how you feel and how close your accommodation is.
In short, I would say that you should listen to your body and find your own pace. The Camino is an amazing journey with outstanding pilgrims who will help you if you need it. Don´t worry about your age, maybe you are better trained (mentally and physically) than other younger pilgrims since you have worried about preparing your body and mind in advance. Haven´t you?
Buen Camino for our over-60 pilgrims.