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Alexandria seniors participate in annual walkathon

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It might not have been the Boston Marathon, but 50 seniors from the St. Martin de Porres Senior Center and the Senior Center at Charles Houston in Alexandria got moving at the annual Robust Walkathon at Ben Brenman Park in Alexandria April 23.

Margaret Orlando, division chief for recreation services for the Alexandria Department of Parks and Recreation, said the walkathon had a twofold purpose. “It is a fundraiser to support other programs and teaches the seniors some walking skills where they can intersperse exercises into their walks,” she said. “It’s not just aerobics. It encourages balance and strength.”

The walkathon began with a warmup and demonstration from the company, PK Silver —a mini-tutorial of their obstacle course. Parkour is a sport that makes an obstacle course out of urban objects.

Some with the assistance of canes and walkers, each senior slowly made their way through the obstacle course and then, in groups of 12, moved to different stations throughout the park where they learned low-intensity exercises.

At the first station, seniors sat on benches and were given resistance bands of varying strengths to put under their feet and pull up. They stood up and sat down multiple times and used the bands to stretch in different ways. At another exercise station set up on a bridge, the seniors were instructed to hold onto the railing, bend down, kick their legs out to the side and repeat.

The walkathon was sponsored by area senior agencies. The funds, raised from registration fees, will benefit three annual events — Dance for All Ages, Senior Health and Fitness Fair, and Senior Winter Holiday Celebration.

The walkathon is just one of the activities seniors at the St. Martin de Porres Center participate in during the year. The center is operated by diocesan Catholic Charities in a partnership funded by the City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services.

Alice Faye Williams has been participating in St. Martin de Porres events for more than two years. “I thought the (walkathon) was wonderful,” she said. “I like being with people and communicating with them.”

Anne Coyne, senior center director, said the center has been around for more than 40 years. “It’s a place where they can escape from loneliness, meet new friends, and have fun,” she said. “It’s a center just for them.”

Seniors must be 60 or older, independent and not have serious medical issues. The seniors represent 44 different nationalities and speak more than nine languages, according to Coyne.

Mildred Walker, who is visually impaired, has been coming to the center for 12 years. “I like being a part, being around people,” she said. “Others play games and enjoy themselves, and I enjoy having lunch and going shopping together.” The center provides congregate meals and a variety of health, exercise, social, recreational, educational and entertainment activities, as well as field trips.

Peggy Seufert has been coming for three years and enjoys the camaraderie. “The center is doing good things for the community because people who might not be getting as much to eat, are receiving a hot meal,” she said. “I help them in the kitchen. This is a good place and I’ve enjoyed coming here.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019