Accessible forest tourism for seniors

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our beautiful city of Gdynia is located in the north of Poland on the shores of the Baltic Sea. To the east the city borders the waters of the Bay of Gdańsk while vast beech forests of the Tricity Landscape Park surround it from the west.   

The tourist season in Poland usually comes to an end in August. With the departure of summer people of often limit their outdoor activities. This year, however, taking advantage of the “beautiful golden autumn”, the Association of Tourism Without Barriers decided to extend the tourist season and together with seniors explore the natural surroundings of our city. 

Since the beginning of September each weekend we have been organising forest hiking trips for all those interested in healthy lifestyle. The forest routes are carefully planned in order to be accessible by seniors and disabled persons. Each trip covers the distance of around 12 km of the forest. During the trips participants benefit not only from physical activities. They are also engaged in educational activities during which they learn more about the local flora and fauna. Seasonal mushroom picking makes these trips even more attractive for seniors.       

Being in the forest is very beneficial to our organism. Fresh air, sounds of forest animals and possibility to touch some of the plants – all these aspects of a forest trip make us feel relaxed and refreshed. The healing qualities of the forest were known to our forefathers centuries ago and we just simply follow in their footsteps. 

The hiking trips are extremely popular among our seniors as they make a perfect opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. While walking through the forest we not only learn more about its flora and fauna, we also learn more about ourselves and have a chance to talk to our fellow hikers while forgetting about everyday problems or loneliness.

Forest hiking trips prompted us to prepare the second part of the Gdynia For Everyone guide book. Unlike the first part of the guide book which was published a year earlier and explored the urban neighbourhoods of Gdynia, the second part will focus on city’s natural attractions. The publication of the guide book has already proved so successful and popular among the readers, that a second edition had to be commissioned.

Based on our experiences with organising trips for seniors and the disabled, the guide book offers a selection of 10 hiking routes through various parts of the city. And what makes this guide book different from other similar publications is the fact that apart the usual information about local attractions, history and biographies of famous citizen of our city, the book also contains practical information about accessibility of particular sites or facilities for seniors or persons with disabilities. As a result, the guide book allows everyone to find their favourite route or monument.        

The Association of Tourism Without Barriers was established seven years ago by a group of young people passionate about tourism. Since its inception the Association has been actively engaging seniors and disabled persons. Our experience shows that tourism is a great tool for overcoming different barriers, not only physical but also mental. The world around us can be equally enchanting, no matter if we experience it on a wheelchair, crutches, or only by touching when we are unable to see. The purpose of the hiking trips is to socially, physically and mentally engage senior persons. Tourism is a great way to achieve all these goals in a single activity.


Author: Agnieszka Walczak, Tourism Without Barriers Association (Poland)