One of my goals at OR was to see how the industry was specifcally addressing "older" active enthusiasts. Didn't see much. As a longtime, 30 year plus, nordic skier I did want to try Nordic Walking, a sport that is all the rage in Northern Europe and which is gaining a foothold in North America.
Nordic Walking involves walking with poles similar to nordic racing poles but shorter. Early one morning I joined the daily walk sponsored by Leki. I have had Leki trekking poles for years and while not particularly known in the US they are a major supplier of nordic racing poles in Europe, especially for Biathlon as they have a nifty quick release switch for the strap. Obviously to shoot you need to get put down your poles. This quick release is also very useful during Nordic Walking.
I found Nordic Walking the flat Salt Lake City streets very relaxing, especially as it was the day after my 16 mile trail race. I could see some serious effort on hills possible. The motion is very rythmic with the arms swinging and a light hold on the grips vs. pushing when one skis.
Leki and others claim a 25% increase in oxygen consumption with poles leading to a better cardio workout. You will get a definite if low resistance upper body workout.
The angle for the older active athlete? This is a great workout with low impact. One of the instructors, Ed was 75, a former runner, who is a passionate alpine skiier and uses nordic walking to keep in shape. It can be social as our group was always at conversation pace. All ages can participate together. The missionary work to introduce the sport continues and Leki is to be complimented for leading the way. The instructors were friendly, not all super hard core athletes, and quite surprisingly none had very much if any snow nordic experience.
I would like to try some collapsible all carbon Leki poles such as the Pacer Vario (which is a bit short for skiing) or the All Season as a combination speed trekking pole and nordic classic pole. I favor the nordic pole grip and strap as a beter way to transfer energy than the beefier trekking handles.