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Rob Waldron, at 84, conquers the Outward Bound challenge

Written by Alan Wood
on September 16, 2020

Rob Waldron has pushed out the boat like no other before him. At the age of 84 he is the oldest person to be a graduate of one of New Zealand’s iconic challenges – an Outward Bound adventure.

Outward Bound has been running since 1962 and, according to the collective memory of the staff and the records examined, Rob is the oldest that has taken part in a formal challenge in the Marlborough Sounds.

You could say the activities course was somewhat of a destiny for Rob Waldron, a resident at Ryman Healthcare’s Woodcote Retirement Village.

Having lived in a number of parts of New Zealand after his initial upbringing on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, located between the United Kingdom and France, adventure has somehow crept into Rob’s life. Certainly his enjoyment of the course in Anakiwa show this.

Take a look at this profile on Seven Sharp. 

Born in 1935 Rob was evacuated from Guernsey in the early stages of World War II to the relative safety of Bolton in Lancashire.

Back on the island he trained as an electrician, met his wife Jean married in 1958 and then in 1959 the couple decided to emigrate to New Zealand. They started life in Christchurch before moving down to Alexandra. Central Otago gave Rob plenty of chances to pursue his walking along the tracks and byways. The couple also brought up two daughters, Joanne and Debbie.

Eventually, in the 80s he and Jean took the chance for an extended tour of Europe travelling by a Eurorail pass. They also caught up with parents and family in Guernsey where they had a five-month stay.

Back in New Zealand it was back to work, but the purchase of a pop-top caravan saw the couple making the most of weekend getaways in the South Island.

The pair eventually landed in Woodcote village, about 9 years ago, where they continued to love life and getting to know other residents from their townhouse. Jean passed away a couple of years ago. Rob kept in close touch with his daughters and family members, but during COVID-19 lockdown decided to expand his horizons.

As restrictions loomed, he took up walking challenges, venturing up to 23km a day and reckons he has covered many hundreds of kilometres in total. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt fitter,” he said before leaving for Anakiwa.

Rob is independent. He left Christchurch, getting up early to travel to Picton by bus on September 8 then it was on to the sounds on September 9. The eight-day ‘Aspire – Low Impact’ course, for around 14 attendees, started straight away. While Rob was aware that some of the Outward Bound components could include a tree-tops walk, kayaking, rock climbing, sailing and a solo challenge, he didn’t know the course details or in what order he would face them.

Before he left one of his bigger concerns was there would be morning dips in the ocean, but Rob has since conquered any uncertainties and followed the dream.

He says the idea to take part came from a fellow volunteer at Foodbank Canterbury. Rob has been working for the charity for about 18 months. He wore one of the Foodbank t-shirts during the Seven Sharp clip.

He has been appreciative too that the cost of attending the course, was provided by Ryman Healthcare. “I think if I’d done it on my own I’d have possibly backed out. Now I can’t back out. So a big thank you to Ryman,” he said.

The family has remained very supportive. His daughters, Debbie (Perth) and Joanne (Lincoln) are very proud. “They’re more excited than I am,” he said before starting the challenge.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman Healthcare was founded in Christchurch in 1984 and owns and operates 36 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia. Ryman villages are home to 11,600 residents, and the company employs more than 6,000 staff.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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