Walking program provides incentives for participants

Published 7:06 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

Many senior citizens in the Washington area regularly walk for health rewards … and other rewards such as water bottles, drawstring bags and mystery trips.

The Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center offers a walking program for senior citizens who are at least 55 years old. The program’s goal is for participants to walk at least 800 miles a year. The center offers rewards for reaching mini-goals. Participants’ progress is displayed at the center on a “route” board.

Each year, the program determines a “route” the walkers will follow. That route takes them through several destinations until the route is completed. This year, walkers traversed from Washington to Key West, Florida. Participants don’t actually journey from Beaufort County to the southern-most area of Florida. Next year, the route ends in Houston, said Deb Bauer, who oversees the program. That trek kicks off Jan. 14, 2019.

“There are sort of stops along the way. There are different cities. … These are milestones that people reach,” Bauer said.

Walkers record their miles in a calendar/logbook. They report their miles walked once a month, by calling in their miles to the center or dropping of a written record of their miles at the center. Seventy percent of the program participants are women. Several couples are signed up for the walks. Walks to the mailbox or a car in a driveway don’t count, Taylor said. Walks must be sustained and brisk, she noted.

“It’s just a walking group. They walk on their own. It’s open to anyone 55 or up,” said Zoe Taylor, special populations supervisor at the center. “We don’t use pedometers. We do it based on time.” Every 20 minutes of brisk walking counts as one mile. Participants may walk along Washington’s waterfront, around high school track or along a trail at Goose Greek State Park, she said.

“If you walk 200 miles over the course of four months, you’re eligible for a free mystery trip. We usually go about an hour radius of Washington. We’ve gone to Wilson and done the whirligigs. We’ve done a tour of Barton College and gone to The Creamery,” Taylor said. Wilson is home to a whirligigs exhibit and the annual North Carolina Whirligig Festival. Other trips included visits to beaches and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I sort of get a gut feeling that it’s a tiny bit competitive for some people. They’re walking because they want to be in the lead. … There’s no real competition, per se. Everybody’s walking to get their miles,” Bauer said.

Anyone interested in signing up for the 2019 trek to Houston or obtaining more information about the program may do so at the Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center, 310 W. Main St, Washington, or by calling 252-975-9638.




About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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