Q and A with SW Portland senior walker
You may well have seen Barbara Bowers hiking around Hillsdale. As an avid pedestrian and a longtime member of SWTrails PDX, she knows what she's doing. Bowers agreed to answer a few SW Connection questions about walking while old. Bowers is 81.
SW CONNECTION: Can you appreciate why walking can be more dangerous for people 65 and older?
BARBARA BOWERS: Yes I can since I have issues with sight and feet. Fortunately, they are not debilitating issues and my attitude is one of "keep putting one foot in front of another". I am not confining my life to a studio apartment. Older people have to adjust to many changes in their body. It is expected that your body will do the same thing today that it did yesterday and it is alarming to discover that isn't the case. Whether the change is subtle or instant, it still becomes a matter of how you deal with change.
SWCC: But you don't let that stop you. What do you do to be safe?
BB: To be safe I begin with supportive shoes, and I'm sure to carry with me on my outings: identification, health card, telephone and water. For walks on unpaved terrain, I carry a walking stick. I always wear a hat, bring sunglasses and if it is sunny I wear sun screen. A smile and friendly greeting go along with the above.
SWCC: Southwest Portland terrain isn't pedestrian-friendly. How do you work around that?
BB: You learn your neighborhood like you did as a kid. I used the SWTrails map and found the quieter neighborhoods and natural areas off the major thoroughfares. Many of the major thoroughfares like Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Capitol Highway and Multnomah Boulevard now have either sidewalks or designated walking areas. Terwilliger is a major road designed to accommodate pedestrians where you can enjoy being under a tree canopy with the wild life that lives there.
SWCC: Do you think the terrain and conditions discourage older people from walking?
BB: No. I don't think it is the terrain necessarily. If walking has been part of your lifestyle you continue it with routes that accommodate your senior status and your health issues. I believe it is more a matter of your desire to find a physical activity that gives you pleasure. I think a group dance class may be more appealing to some people. Being out in nature is not within their comfort zone.
SWCC: Any advice for us older pedestrians?
BB: Keep being active to maintain the best health possible. Walking is free. Here in Southwest Portland, we are fortunate to have urban and natural areas to enjoy. Renew yourself with the benefits of being physically active.
WALK AND TALK
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran will host a walking town hall on September 25 along with SW Trails.
You can meet with Commissioner Meieran and SW Trails volunteers to talk about walking conditions in Southwest Portland while walking.
The session will start at 8:30a.m. next to the Hillsdale Food Cart Park at Wilson High School. Organizers note that only the first 30 minutes of the two-hour walk will be accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Reflective vests are recommended.
HIKE OR STROLL
SWTrails puts on one mildly strenuous hike and one comfortable stroll each month. On Saturday, Sept. 14, the group will host a 6-mile hike in the Ashcreek neighborhood. For more information: www.swtrails.org.
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