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News / Clark County News

Seniors get a grip on ax throwing for Active Aging Week

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: October 4, 2019, 7:28pm
4 Photos
Jo Borwick, 84, laughs while taking aim during an ax throwing event at Highgate Senior Living. Many of the seniors held onto the walls of the mobile ax throwing unit for balance as they threw.
Jo Borwick, 84, laughs while taking aim during an ax throwing event at Highgate Senior Living. Many of the seniors held onto the walls of the mobile ax throwing unit for balance as they threw. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Caroline Herndon, 94, is blind in one eye, but she picked up the ax with confidence and threw.

Residents at Highgate Senior Living in Hazel Dell participated in ax throwing Friday as part of Active Aging Week, a week focused on fun and fitness that’s beloved by Herndon.

“I’m very active. I don’t use a cane. I don’t use a walker,” she said.

She’s done Active Aging Week for years, including indoor skydiving at age 91. When asked what activity she likes best, Herdon replied with a laugh: “All of them.”

Active Aging Week was started in 2003 by the International Council on Active Aging to show that older adults can live life fully as they age. The goal of the week is to provide seniors with wellness and exercise opportunities.

“Even though you’re older, it doesn’t mean you can’t do the things younger people do,” said Rose Zamudio-Mora, life enhancement coordinator at Highgate.

Active Aging Week is about getting older people to step out of their comfort zones and try activities normally reserved for younger people. It’s about having a reason to get up in the morning, Zamudio-Mora said.

As Portland Axe Throwing set up its mobile ax throwing unit, another group of residents piled into a van to head to iFLY Indoor Skydiving in Tigard, Ore. Zamudio-Mora said some of the staff at Highgate said they weren’t brave enough to try indoor skydiving.

Eilif Knutson, owner of Portland Axe Throwing, said ax throwing is not as extreme as people may think it is. He started the company in 2015, but the sport has taken off particularly in the last year or so; ax throwing is offered at bars and the sport is televised on ESPN.

Knutson showed every participant how to hold the hatchet and stand in a way that provides balance and strength when throwing. He instructed them to bring the ax as high as comfortable.

At 103, Highgate resident Lynn Irish is the oldest person that Knutson has ever taught to throw an ax.

He sat in a chair and aimed toward the target, but after a few throws couldn’t quite get the hatchet to stick into the wooden target. His 73 -year-old son, Larry Irish, joined him and they practiced side-by-side. Together, they clasped their hands around the hatchet — combining their strength — and threw an ax together.


“Where is it? I can’t even see it,” Lynn Irish said, before his target was brought over to him for a quick photo like a champion posing with his trophy.

“That’s the first tandem throw I’ve seen,” Knutson said.

Larry Irish said his dad just celebrated his birthday last week. He remembers him chopping wood back in the day when they went camping.

“But I’ve never known him to throw the ax,” Knutson quipped.

During Active Aging Week in previous years, Lynn Irish has done fishing and indoor skydiving. This year, Highgate also took residents to Topgolf in Hillsboro, Ore., Archery World in Vancouver and Bonneville Dam. They also had lunch at Kingkong Korean BBQ and put on an Oktoberfest celebration. Highgate, which has several locations in the Western U.S., offers independent and assisted living, as well as memory care.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith