For many Kiwis, camping has been woven into the fabric of our upbringing. For Wendy Sibun, who at 66 is one of the youngest members of the YMCA never2old programme, her recent experience was her first.

Wendy, along with 20 other ‘never2olders’ last month ventured to the iconic Camp Adair in Hunua for a specially planned never2old camp. “I had never been camping and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I would not be over estimating the situation if I said this camp was one of life’s highlights for me!” enthused Wendy.

Held from 18 to 20 of February, the never2old group experienced 3 days of physically and mentally challenging activities. Kayaking, raft building and sailing, bush walks and a high ropes course kept the group out of mischief during the day, while the evening was full of sing-alongs with one of the instructors on acoustic guitar.

“The camp was intense  - we went over a swing bridge and up the side of a hill, which was quite a feat in itself, to the magical ‘tent city’. There were only cold showers, but by the second night we were all sitting around saying that we just didn’t want to go home.”

A part of the Auckland Central YMCA never2old group for the last 4 years, Wendy is a regular at the three specialised classes each week and loves the important social element that the group fosters. “We all egg each other on, - in a nice way. I just couldn’t do this on my own,” she says. 

Having beaten cancer and finally recovered from a debilitating illness that she claims her lack of fitness made so much harder to beat, Wendy vowed and declared that she would never get ill again while she was that unfit. “My immune system is so much better now, but both psychologically and physically, I am that much stronger.”

The never2old initiative focuses on keeping its members (aged 60-89) fit and healthy, helping them train for events and camps and teaching exercises to strengthen the body for practical applications such as lifting grandchildren or taking heavy items off shelves. Among the members are those who have suffered from heart complaints, broken limbs and arthritis or who battle the effects of Parkinsons. The holistic and social atmosphere of the programme means that the group is tight-knit, really caring and looking out for each other and fostering the YMCA’s inclusive, community-based values.

“It’s been amazing to see the others change and blossom as people. The changes in our mindset carry through as our bodies change and become fitter also. It's a shame more people don’t know about it,” says Wendy.

 We leave the last word to Wendy: “never2old Camp Adair was such a magical experience for me. I loved Tent City and all the boundaries pushed for mind and body by those awesome young men who looked after us as much and as little as they needed to. The chance to go as a bunch of older people was very special but as I eased myself into the camping situation, we all just became a bunch of mates at camp, respecting and looking after each other's needs… That’s what it’s all about after all.”

YMCA and the never2old group would like to extend a special thank you to the Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Fund, proudly administered by Guardian Trust – without whom their magical and memorable camping experience would not have been possible.