Let’s take a walk together

The popular Senior Strolls program sends groups into favorable Portland locales

Project manager Donna Green gathers her charges at Pioneer Square as she prepares to conduct another of her Senior Strolls about downtown Portland. The program is run through the city’s transportation department.

Credit: L.E. Baskow
Project manager Donna Green gathers her charges at Pioneer Square as she prepares to conduct another of her Senior Strolls about downtown Portland. The program is run through the city’s transportation department.

Few can dispute the benefits of regular walking, particularly when it involves tours of your city’s neighborhoods and spectacular sights.

But men and women in Portland who want to join other walkers who are 50 years and older need to act quickly – the city’s department of transportation is ending a popular program due to lack of funding, despite a nine-year run.

No one is more dismayed than Donna Green, project manager of Transportation Options.

For nine years, she’s led the Senior Strolls walking program on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Each walk is generally about one mile. There’s no cost or registration involved. All seniors need to do is show up at the designated meeting place, rain or shine.

There are numerous health benefits to walking but equally important have been the friendships that have occurred as a result of the socializing while walking. You discover Portland “jewels” that you may never have known about in the 23 walks that will continue until Oct. 2. The newest neighborhood added to the list is South Waterfront.

“I am happy to say that each year after the strolls end, when I do a survey of the participants, a majority of the respondents indicate that they have given up a short drive for a short walk instead,” Green says. “For us folks in Active Transportation, that is a win-win. The strolls are designed to help build endurance by gradually increasing in length during the course of the stroll season.”

Senior Strolls began as a result of a study by Portland State University and Elders in Action about senior transportation, where it was determined the city should do more to encourage older citizens to get out and walk. Green says the average walker is about 70 years old, but there are several older walkers too. She has found the walks with seniors to be inspiring. She remarked about one female walker, in her 80s, who came late and was able to catch up with the group.

Every year the routes in the Senior Strollers programs take walkers to different parts of the city.

Those who go on the strolls are “very appreciative. They see places they wouldn’t see and have a renewed appreciation for the City of Portland,” Green says. “The great parks, the neighborhoods, the commercial districts. You get a different perspective on foot and discover places you didn’t know about.” All the routes can be accessed by Tri-Met and half the walkers use public transportation.

Senior Strolls is accompanied by Ped Pals, a year-round program in which seniors are teamed up with a walking buddy in their Portland neighborhood for those who want to take walks on their own and schedule the walks themselves. A walking buddy helps them keep walking all year long.

With Ped Pals, you make a request to have a walking partner, and then you are paired with others seeking the same activity. This senior program will continue, even though Senior Strolls ends in October.

“It has been a great program,” Green says. “Every year we’ve had more people turn out. It’s a great service. Women, especially, are hesitant to walk alone.”

How did she get to lead this program? “I got lucky, really, really lucky. It was timing,” says Green, who always has enjoyed walking. “It’s great therapy and so beneficial health wise. You keep fit, your clear your mind, you get to love the city and you meets lots of wonderful people.”

Does Green have a walking buddy? “These were my buddies,” she says, referring to the Senior Strollers and touching her hand to her heart. “I’m not happy that we cannot save the program. What I hope will happen is that those who have used Senior Strolls will exchange phone numbers and emails and find a way to continue on their own. I will provide walking maps and any resources they need. There is no reason they couldn’t take trips on their own with volunteers.”

In addition to Senior Strolls and Ped Pals, the transportation department has another walking program called Ten Toe Walks, which includes hills and is “more ambitious.” This program will continue.

Anyone wishing to join the Strollers until October should contact Donna Green at 503-823-6114 or email her at don-na.green@portlandoregon.gov for more information.

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