Mall walkers gain fitness, friendships
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Ruth Bone began walking at Victoria Mall nine years ago after she broke her hip.
Over time, Bone got rid of her walker and gained so much more.
"I came out here and made a whole bunch of new friends," she said.
The 84-year-old Victoria resident said she was encouraged by her husband to resume regular physical activity as she recovered.
The bonds between many mall walkers run deep.
"It's just like family," said fellow walker Annett Holcomb. "When you miss, people want to know where you are."
Holcomb began walking with her mother, Florence Horton, when the mall opened in 1981.
When Horton suffered a stroke and became too ill to walk, she continued to come to the mall. Instead of walking, she would sit and watch the others.
Even after Horton's death almost 10 years ago, Holcomb, 73, kept going.
"It helps get your day started," Holcomb said.
The dedicated walkers and friends arrive at the shopping center on N. Navarro Street at 7 a.m., three hours prior to normal business hours.
Some mall employees make special concessions for this group.
"As soon as we open the doors, they are there," said Rosanna Shoemake, the mall manager.
Outside organizations, like Advanced Home Health Services, have started initiatives targeting the elderly.
Some health experts say people become less active as they age and have more health related issues.
The home care company started a Walk Victoria initiative in early December by passing out pedometers and walking logs to help individuals track their movement.
One trip around the interior of the mall is 3,757 feet or .71 of a mile.
Once a month, they will come to mall from 8-10 a.m. to track participants' progress. About 60 people have received support materials.
Angela Groll, the organization's community educator, said the program's goal is to get participants to walk 100 miles in six months.
"It's a community service effort to get people more active," Groll said.
Bone, Holcomb and their friends said they walk between 30 and 45 minutes per day.
"I come here every day, except when I want to sleep in," Gail Richter said jokingly.
Richter, who has 28 years of mall-walking experience, said she enjoys the social aspect. Her preschoolers at Victoria Christian School keep her pretty active, as well.
"I don't need to walk because when I get to school, I start running," she said.
Lou Tidmore also gets another form of exercise through her fitness class at DeTar Health Center.
The 80-year-old great-grandmother said the time passes by quickly in the presence of good company.
"It's not hard to exercise because your friends are here," she said. "You see everyone you know."
Tidmore said her friends share good and bad times, which makes their relationships more meaningful.
Throughout her 30 years of walking in the mall, she said people have gotten ill and died.
The women let one another know when they won't be there, so their friends don't get concerned.
"When you get to a certain age, you have to check on your friends. You may not have one tomorrow," Tidmore said.
After the walk, the friends gather at a table, sip coffee and celebrate birthdays.
Recently, friend and fellow walker Rusty Griffith approached the group and exchanged pleasantries.
Griffith, an 89-year-old retired senior safety inspector, proudly patted his chest and said, "This is what walking does for you."