An on-going goal of the Sunnyvale Senior Center is to combat the isolation that so frequently becomes a part of everyday living for many seniors. To do this, the senior center engages individuals that do not typically participate in structured fitness classes by offering a wide variety of health and wellness classes such as modern dancing, Pilates, Zumba, walking, among others! Walking is a great first step to improving health and wellness in older adults and with this in mind, we applied and received a Walk With Ease training grant from the National Recreation and Park Association earlier this year that has enabled us to offer a free walking program to local older adults.
Walk With Ease is a low-impact structured walking program that is intended to get older adults moving to reduce the symptoms associated with chronic pain, while improving overall health. Throughout the six-week program, older adults get together three times a week for an hour. During these classes, participants not only walk, but learn beneficial stretching and cool down exercises that increase balance and strength.
To get the ball rolling, we recruited two dynamic volunteers willing to lead our new walking program. Sharon McCode and Lisa Corley took to the training immediately after the award, and shortly upon their certification, began instructing the first Walk With Ease group. Through the help of a summer intern, Christine Pham, we could keep the group organized and informed about the various park locations for the program. Our initial group of 18 was diverse in terms of the levels of fitness, with some walking quite slowly and others at a faster pace. The group quickly developed friendships and exchanged contact information resulting in additional weekly walking endeavors and trips to the local coffee shop.
The Sunnyvale Senior Center has now started its second six-week session with an enrollment of 15. Several of our “alumni walkers” from the first session still want to continue so we keep them informed of the park locations each week and they join us for the stretch and walking portion of the program. Thanks to NRPA and the Walk With Ease program, friendships continue to grow and healthy lifestyles are encouraged throughout our beautiful neighborhood parks.
Julie Jensen is the community services coordinator for City of Sunnyvale Senior Center.