We have gone back to college for a week in a small Ohio village set in the midst of beautiful farmland. Many people regard this as the middle of nowhere (not unlike the rural area in which we live.) There is one great advantage to this place as a self-contained community, however: it is totally walkable. I am able to walk from our dormitory at the north end of the campus to virtually any other site along innumerable paths. We have retired our car for the week, and it is not missed.
One very noticeable benefit of being able, even required, to walk everywhere is that I am getting more exercise than I have in many months. In anticipation of knee surgery in April, Ray bought me a FitBit activity monitor in February. Great, I thought, I’ll do a pre- and post-surgery comparison to see how much more active and fit I could be.
The initial goal with the FitBit wrist band is set at 10,000 steps a day. Pre-surgery I was lucky to hit 2,000. Post-surgery and physical therapy, I was getting to 4,000 to 5,000, not very impressive. What became apparent was that I had limited opportunity to just walk places. I would go occasionally to the local college campus and stroll its grounds. I would go to our home village and take exercise on the village streets while running errands. Still, my progress was stagnating.
With our week at the summer institute, I have not only hit the 10K target, but am exceeding it by one to two thousand steps a day. This is what I call progress. But it must not remain short-lived. The challenge for many seniors is having a place that is “walkable.” The term appears frequently of late as urban planners look at ways to draw people back to the cities, thereby reducing dependence on the automobile. But it also has implications for our general health and well-being as my case demonstrates.
As we age, we may well have to give up driving and rely on public transportation, the kindness of family and friends or, maybe best of all, our own two feet. With this prospect in mind, we might want to look seriously at places to live that afford us the services we need within walking distance. It is one more way of maintaining the independence that virtually every senior wants.