Walking from Mexico to Canada is a phenomenal feat, especially when you consider it's currently being done, in a virtual reality manner, by a group of Southeast Seattle senior citizens. Residents of the Brighton Apartment complex have been chipping away at their collective mileage goal during their weekly walks around a quarter-mile path encircling the building near the corner of South Holly Street and Rainier Avenue South.
"The idea is to develop more fitness in Southeast Seattle in the Seniors. Said Ruth Egger who works at Brighton for the University of Washington's Health Promotion Research Center (HPRC). "The main purpose is that if people exercise they live longer, they have less frequent visits to the doctor, so exercise is the answer to maintaining a healthy lifestyle."
Not long ago the apartments were run-down and crime-afflicted, but in 1999 the place was purchased due to the financial and community organizing efforts of the Seattle Senior Foundation. The senior citizen community currently houses around 200 residents, according to Egger, who noted that it's not just seniors who have settled at Brighton.
Living requirements call for at least one resident to be over 55-years-old. This has resulted in a multi-generational family mix in many of the building's units.
The Brighton walking group meets every Monday morning, weather permitting, with the six-10 participants averaging about 100 miles a month. They measure their mileage by the minute, averaging one mile every half-an-hour, or by using a pedometer.
"The biggest challenge is to get people motivated to exercise," Egger said.
With Brighton well established, Egger is working to expand the HPRC program's scope to include community clinics where doctors work with seniors and recommend them to area walking groups. To make such an effort successful in the long run, Egger has also begun focusing on getting churches, synagogues, mosques, and Buddhist temples to sponsor senior walking groups throughout the South End. She also hopes area businesses will join the healthy senior lifestyle effort by sponsoring a walking group.
For the past two-and-a-half years Dorothea Jewell, age 72, has called Brighton home. She takes inspiration from her neighbors and fellow walkers. Jewell also draws inspiration from the walking path, which features a large welcoming sign near the garden portion and a yellow line tracing its route around the building.
"It's a good way to get to know people who live here," asserted Jewell. "[The path] reminds me to do what I know I should be doing. It's just very handy to have this area right outside the front door."
Jewell and her husband, along with the eight other walkers actively participating in the Canada to Mexico route, have branched off into strolling around Seward Park.
"It's a fun kind of a gimmick to urge us to keep track and turn our mileage in," said Jewell.
With the advent of rainy weather, Egger hopes such enthusiasm will continue. She is currently working on ways to transfer the activity indoors for the winter, when needed.
In the meantime, the group is watching the map and looking forward to reaching some of their reward goals, such as manicures for all participating once they make it to San Francisco.
"I think that it's magnificent because you build up at your own pace," said 65-year-old Brighton resident and walking group participant Eula Clark. "You don't have to walk until you drop. It's really fun, and I'm really glad I'm doing it because it has enhanced my health. I feel better, I can wake up in the morning and I feel good. So I just get up and get on it and do the things I need to do."
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