Aging My Way: Dave Bohanon and the East Cobb Hiking Group

May is Older Americans Month (OAM), and the theme this year is “Age My Way.” That’s why we are bringing you stories from across metro Atlanta about the many ways older people can remain in and be involved with their communities.

A group of hikers in jackets and carrying hiking poles poses for a photo in front of a bunch of trees. It looks cold outside.
The hikers pose for a trailside photo.

When Dave Bohanon first retired, he was looking for a group of contemporaries to walk with in the vicinity of East Cobb, where he’s lived for decades. On the weekends, he’d been going for morning walks with friends, but he wanted to be challenged more. He’d tried a hiking group in north Cobb, but it was too far for him.

So when he couldn’t find what he was looking for, Dave created his own group.

Four years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic sent people outdoors en masse to enjoy nature, Dave started a hiking group for adults ages 65 and over. And he hasn’t missed a beat since. Geared up with hiking boots, trekking poles, and water bottles, Dave leads the hikers on vigorous two-hour walks twice a week.

Dave convened the first walk in January 2018, putting up a notice on the bulletin board of the Tim Lee Senior Center in East Cobb. Sixteen people showed up. He said he replicated some ideas from the north Cobb hikers, and folks kept showing up. The email group now has about 200 names, and of those, about 30 people are regulars.

Dave estimates that he has walked about 1,000 miles with his group. They’ve visited dozens of trails in 16 parks.

“Regular hikes have helped me maintain good physical health,” says Dave, who also walks three miles most mornings. “I’m trying to maintain a certain flexibility and muscle strength.”

A man wearing a beige jacket and a beige hat points into the distant trees.
Dave directs people on the trail.

Dave figures that as long as he moves, he will stay in good health.

“The more you try to stay active within reason, the better your health is,” he adds. “We don’t lose our abilities because we’re getting old, we lose our abilities because we don’t use them.”

While Dave relishes his improved physical stamina, he also admits that socializing with peers is important. Often, the group continues to socialize after the hike, and they get to take turns visiting all the parks in the area. Some of his favorites include East Palisades in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Hyde Farm, and Cooper’s Furnace.

One of the reasons why Dave enjoys leading the group is because he likes to see his fellow hikers build confidence in themselves. He sees some of his peers struggling at first, and then they’re able to keep up better as they hike more.

When asked how hiking has enriched his life, Dave responds “I really like the socialization with active people who, like me, enjoy nature and who appreciate the effort I put into organizing the hikes. But I also appreciate having them come along!”

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For more information about resources for older people and people with disabilities in the Metro Atlanta area, check out our Search for Services feature, or explore the Empowerline website to be connected with services & counseling.

Arin Yost

Arin is a Lead for America fellow with the Aging & Independence Services Group working with the Live Beyond Expectations team to identify and address disparities in life expectancy throughout the Atlanta region. In their free time, Arin enjoys gardening, creating zines, and spoiling their pet tortoise, Michel.