Octogenarian Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro, Breaks Record

Megan Ray  |  November 14, 2011

When Richard Byerley, 84, reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in October, he became the oldest person to climb the mountain on foot, AARP reports.

The active octogenarian reached the peak of the tallest mountain on the African continent in six days with two of his grandchildren, both in their 20s. They believed that their grandfather could make the trip, they told the news outlet.

"There was no doubt in my mind that he was physically capable of it," Annie, 29, told the source.

She and her cousin, Brendan, 25, are trained first responders and were ready should their grandfather need medical attention. The hikers were also covered by Flying Doctors who could dispatch a helicopter in case of emergency.

Byersley, a retired alfalfa farmer from Walla Walla, Washington, has always led an active lifestyle. Raised on a farm, he has worked his entire life from sunup to sundown, according to the news source. After marrying his wife, Beth, who climbed Kilimajaro 30 years ago, he spent most of his days doing physical labor on their farm. In their free time, the couple went hiking, biking, backpacking, sailing and skiing, the news source reports.

In fact, at age 74, Byersley took a 45-day bike ride across the United States that he says was harder than the nearly 20,000-foot climb up Kilimanjaro.

"We biked 70 miles a day for 45 days, with only two days off, through rain and snow," he told the news source. "That was a lot more work."

Although not all seniors can stay as active as Byersley has, finding a good exercise program and sticking to it is important for all seniors. According to the National Institute on Aging, exercise, a "fountain of youth," may prevent or delay diabetes and heart trouble, can reduce anxiety and depression and may also relieve arthritis pain.

The news source recommends that seniors incorporate four main types of exercise into their workout regimen. Endurance exercises like walking, swimming or riding a bike improve heart health and the circulatory system, while strengthening exercises build muscle tissue and reduce age-related muscle loss. In addition, seniors should stretch to keep their bodies limber and practice balance exercises that may help them avoid falling.  

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