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Young at heart: Group takes plunge down zip line
The group takes a water break between zip lines. The J.A. Walters Family YMCA Active Older Adult Group, with age ranges from the 50s to the 80s, rode nine zip lines, crossed two sky bridges, and took two nature walks during the trip.

At the sprightly age of 83, Claude Schneider dismisses the suggestion that he’s experiencing his midlife crisis.

Instead, he straps on a helmet, heaves himself into a harness and proceeds to leap from a seven-story-high treehouse, all while laughing off his children’s concerns.

“My son, he did ask me if I was having a (crisis),” Schneider said. “But I told him it’s not like I’m hang-gliding or anything.”

Instead the Gainesville resident is only strapping himself to a cable and whisking through the woods of North Georgia.

“It’s just zip lining,” he said. “It’s one of those things that are on your list of things to do.”

And it’s not on his agenda alone. On Tuesday, the octogenarian joined eight other senior citizens and gave gravity guff at North Georgia Canopy Tours in Lula.

The group ranged in ages from their 50s to their near-90s, and they’d been in such extreme situations before. As members of the J.A. Walters Family YMCA’s Active Older Adult Group, they’ve done everything from hiking to whitewater rafting. One of their group even opted to sky-dive for her 71st birthday.

“They’re just awesome,” said the club’s coordinator and YMCA employee Heather Phillips. “They’re comical, courageous and inspiring.”

Most of all, though, they’re eager for new experiences.

“I always like to do something different, and this is,” said Schneider’s friend, Roger Futrell, 81, also of Gainesville. The former pilot said he planned to go home and cross one more item off his bucket list.

“Jumping out of an airplane has also always been on (my list), and this is close to it,” he said.

Statements like these make Phillips’ spirits soar, as the whole purpose of her excursions is to help her group experience new adventures.

“I do these (outings) to get people out of their comfort zones,” she said.

Phillips admits to having an alternative motive to planning such events, the next of which is likely to be a sky hike at Stone Mountain.

“I want people to know that even though sometimes we think we’re too old to do something, it’s never too late to push yourself,” she said.

Fortunately, nobody needed a literal shove. Each member voluntarily zipped through the treetops, even though one suffers from a severe fear of heights.

“One (person in the group) was very intimidated,” Phillips said. “But she was able to rise to her own challenge, and you could tell she felt very good about her own accomplishment.”

And an accomplishment it is. The two-hour adventure featured nine zip lines of varying lengths and speeds, two sky bridges, two nature walks and a racing course, where group members could compete to be the first to reach the end of the nearly 700-foot long cable.

As the tour drew to an end, guide Amber Padgett clipped Schneider to the longest cable of the course and quipped, “You’re only as young as you think you are.”

Schneider quickly responded, “That’s why we’re here.”

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