Fresno older adults recognize the importance of staying active! Together they improved their health by walking one-hour, three times a week for six weeks. The Fresno Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services (PARCS) Department offers special programs for older adults at various neighborhood and community centers that provide meals, socialization and most importantly physical activity. In August 2017, Fresno was awarded a grant from the California Arthritis Partnership Program in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association’s Healthy Aging in Parks Initiative to encourage area residents to participate in evidence-based physical activity recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Walk With Ease program, developed by the Arthritis Foundation, has been a big success in getting our older adults actively involved again! Center staff leading the program immediately noted that the elderly men who primarily spent their time playing cards got excited with this program to get up and move. On the first day of the program, most of the participants could not walk very far, and it was difficult for them to complete the stretch exercises because as one person noted "everything hurts." Every step counts and before the six-week session was over, the seniors were walking a mile! Take Mr. Joe Trevino, a 92-year old veteran that is an inspiration to us all and sets the pace for participants. Initially he commented "I am just too old for this," but he joined the stretch exercises and soon after, he was leading all the walkers. He is a veteran of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. He has had both knees replaced, and an open-heart surgery. He is an exemplary person inspiring others and leading the daily pledge of allegiance. Mr. Trevino indicates the program has helped him a lot. "When they ask me how I feel I tell them I feel good now...walking helps you a lot. The stretching and walking has also helped with my balance. I used to walk occasionally, but now I walk regularly." When we neared the end of the six-week walking program, someone left a basketball near the basketball court and Mr. Trevino picked it up and attempted to make the shot. The huge smile on his face reflected how good he felt!
It has been a very rewarding experience for staff offering this program!
Irma Yépez-Pérez is a Senior Management Analyst for the City of Fresno Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services (PARCS) Department.