The purpose of the ‘Active by Nature’ project is to recognise and support senior citizens volunteering to promote outdoor recreation and nature appreciation for the benefit of both themselves and others. 


Rikke Damm, MA (b. 1972). Since 2010, Rikke has worked as a consultant in the Danish Outdoor Council's outdoor activities unit, where she primarily organises project support for outdoor recreation and open-air education. She was previously a programme coordinator with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Project: ‘Active by Nature – supporting especially active senior citizens engaged in outdoor recreation and nature appreciation’ 

Grantee: Danish Outdoor Council

Amount: DKK 2,205,000 from VELUX FONDEN

The funding programme is administered by the Danish Outdoor Council, an umbrella organisation for some 90 organisations dedicated to outdoor recreation, nature appreciation and the natural environment. The Council serves the interests of both its organisations and the general public in outdoor pursuits and engages actively in creating better opportunities for outdoor recreation through activities such as campaigns, projects and lobbying.

Seniors by rickshaw

“Are we going too fast?”, inquires a solicitous Mogens. The gravel is crunching beneath the bicycle wheels. The waters of the Kattegat are glittering on the horizon. The sun's warmth casts a glow on the cheeks of the lady in the seat in front of him. “No, if I was in a hurry, I certainly wouldn't be riding with you”, comes her smiling retort. But we are far from the busy streets of Delhi, and the rickshaw needs neither to race to its destination nor provide a livelihood for its driver. 

We are in Frederikshavn in Denmark, where Mogens Lundholm, from the local branch of the DanAge Association, which is part of the ‘Ageless Cycling’ movement, is procuring rickshaw cycles for elderly care facilities in the municipalities of Frederikshavn and Læsø to give residents better opportunities for socialising in the open air and rediscovering the local community they were formerly an active part of. Mogens' frst passenger is pleased enough. She'd happily take a trip again another day because it does after all get her further out into the blue beyond than her rollator. Not to mention the good company. Mogens may not be the fastest ‘pilot’, but she enjoys their chat in the open air, and the sights, sounds and scents of it all.

A partnership for nature appreciation

Many senior citizens are keen country-goers. They get out into the countryside more often than other adults, not to mention more than children and young people, who are less in touch with the natural world than earlier generations. Many older people are very keen to share their appreciation of the countryside and great outdoors with other people. They often have the time and the mental energy to make a positive diference for the countryside, or arrange nature appreciation and outdoor recreation events for others. Equally, many older people in Denmark are very actively engaged in the nation's voluntary associations. Whether as members of a board, treasurers, instructors, tour guides, nature stewards or actively engaged senior members, they are all doing their bit for the appeal and diversity of the nation's voluntary associations.

In support of this vital contribution, VELUX FONDEN and the Danish Outdoor Council formed a partnership to grant DKK 2 million in 2015 to especially active senior citizens engaged in outdoor recreation and nature appreciation. The partnership is based on the positive experiences from the pilot period in 2014 during which time DKK 1 million was granted. The funding programme is aimed at non-working individuals aged 60 or over who are active members of an association. Funding applications are invited for nonproft activities beneftting the Danish countryside, or facilitating nature appreciation and outdoor recreation.

Lunch at Øm Kloster. Photo: Jan Hansen, Aktive Birkerød Seniorer

‘Active by Nature’ is enthusuatically received

The interest in ‘Active by Nature’ has been immense. By the application deadline of 1 June, 100 applications had been submitted, of which half were granted. These applicants numbered active over- 60s representing local councils, civic, pensioner and ‘friends of’ associations, local chapters of the Danish Outdoor Council's afliated organisations and numerous other local associations. The geographical spread has been wide, with applications received from 56 municipalities. They refect great diversity and creativity in the voluntary sector – all the way from 60-90-year-old ‘village biddies’, who meet on Tuesdays for communal activities; to the active senior rower who mounts summer activities for school children, or the ‘grey panthers’ who draw orienteering maps and mark waypoints on countryside routes.

Many of the funded activities are inter-generational with a particular focus on children and adolescents: Asserballe Youth Association's 50+ group is creating a village garden in which youngsters learn about growing and preparing vegetables. 

Most of the activities are aimed at facilitating nature appreciation and outdoor recreation such as ‘The Grassroots’ in Hagested, who maintain nature trails; the senior members of Kalundborg Rowing Club, who, thanks to new equipment, can now offer young people exciting water pursuits; Faaborg Local Council's communal walks for mobility impaired persons or outdoor ftness training for senior citizens in the scenic surroundings of the tiny island of Drejø.

Other projects aim to make a positive diference to the countryside by putting up bird nesting boxes or bumblebee boxes, creating sheep pasture guilds, combating invasive species, cleaning village ponds or planting urban gardens.

The financial and moral support from ‘Active by Nature’ makes a considerable diference. It gives added impetus to many voluntary initiatives and activities. The beneft is not only to the active senior citizens themselves. The local communities also beneft from the older generation's initiatives. They boost quality of life and community spirit, prevent loneliness and promote health through physical activity in the open air. And requests have already been received for a new round of ‘Active by Nature’.