Active Aging with Axes 

By Andrew McCutcheon

For the past few years, we’ve been doing more adventurous activities for Active Aging week. 

The week, which kicks off on the first week in October, celebrates the benefits of participation and recreation at any age and skill level. 

Our senior community at the Unison at Kerby Centre breaks stereotypes about what they’re capable of. I’ve seen it first hand: in our clients, our visitors and our volunteers. 

And nowhere is it more visible than our annual special event for Active Aging week. 

Two years ago, it was downhill sledding at Winsport. Folks in their 90s holding onto the brake with steady hands as they careened down a winding track at high speeds. 

Last year, it was indoor skydiving at iFly: a giant wind-tunnel and older adults clad in red flight jumpsuits, taking to the air as they became weightless for the first time in their lives. 

This year, how could we possibly outdo ourselves? 

I mean. We could hand folks some axes, show them a target and let ‘em rip. 

I swear next year, we’d do diving with sharks if Alberta wasn’t landlocked. 

It wasn’t as casual as I’m making it sound, of course. Axe Throwing Calgary had our squad of seniors well-trained in the safety practices before they handed off the axes for folks to give it a shot. 

It was more complicated than it seemed. Your natural instinct is to throw it like a ball, flicking your wrist and using the momentum of your elbow. But it’s more like chopping wood, appropriately. You have to use your shoulders primarily, and instead of “throwing” the axe, you just… let it go, timed properly as your hand swings down. 

Do it right, and the axe sails through the air, sinking into the target opposite. 

Do it wrong, and. Well. 

You end up doing it wrong quite a few times before it starts to sink in. The axe bounces, falls, and slightly ricochets from the target, clattering safely to the ground. 

It’s loud; louder than you might expect. The din of chatter and nervous energy is low against the loud thuds of axes smashing into the wooden targets. Sometimes a piece of the target itself would get knocked loose and send a massive sliver flying. Nothing dangerous but gave us a start. 

In fact, the whole process — despite the implication of, you know, throwing axes —seemed safer than most other sports. I mean, we had a golf tournament just a couple of weeks previous, and this seemed just as safe. The chances of something going wrong are about equal to being accidentally hit with a rogue driver shot. 

I asked one of the staff members, though, if anything memorable had ever gone awry. 

“Well, we had one person lick an axe.’ 

Sorry. What? 

“They licked the axe. You know, with their tongue.” 

… Why? 

“They wanted to see how sharp it was.” 

And they. Licked it? 

“Yeah. So now we have to include ‘don’t lick the axes’ when we’re doing our safety talk.” 

None of our crew licked the axes. Some of them got pretty good with their throws by the end of the session. 

It was a great way to show that our Kerby Community is not only smart and more capable than the world might imagine, but they are wildly adventurous. 

Who knows? Maybe next year we’ll do swimming with sharks. 

How expensive could it be to fly a couple in? Bring them to one of the public pools. 

As long as folks don’t try to lick them. 

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