When Linda Meier of Egan goes shopping these days, she’s not worried about how far she might have to park from the store’s front door.
Meier, 69, has improved her ability to walk a longer distance for a greater amount of time through a new program called Walk With Ease, designed to help people become more mobile, especially those with arthritis.
“I’m shopping more,” she said. “I’m doing it without pain.”
Stretching exercises taught through the program that started Feb. 18 at the Flandreau Elementary School have helped the most, Meier said. She used to have pain in her feet if she walked even a short distance, she said. “I don’t care where I have to park anymore. That’s a joy.”
Walk With Ease is coordinated by community health nurse Janii White and is offered through the South Dakota State University Extension and Avera Flandreau Hospital for people who haven’t been able to get into a walking routine. White said 19 people signed up and she has seen progress in their mobility, with most of them able to walk the goal of a half hour at a time.
She also has seen less shortness of breath and more flexibility among participants.
“Everybody really does well,” White said.
Those who attend range in age from 60 to into their 90’s. They work at their own pace three times a week. Thursday of last week was the final day for the group, a program that was cut short by two weeks because the hospital canceled all activities.
Those wishing to continue to walk on their own can use the school hallways and commons or the school’s track when it is open. White said there also will be a program next fall and possibly next winter.
Several participants want to continue walking on their own because they feel better, they said.
“I just need the exercise. I have arthritis. I have to keep moving or I stiffen up,” said Judy Baas of Flandreau. She is able to walk about 25 minutes, despite surgery last year that limited her mobility.
Zona Sanderson, 88 of Flandreau, wants to model after her husband, Vic, even if it’s on a smaller scale. He walks a couple times a day and puts in two to three miles, she said.
“I hope I can keep it up,” she said. “I just hope I can have the determination to keep going.”
At 93, Doris Haugen joined the program with her daughter, Lynette Klein, because she needed to get back into the habit of walking.
“It just makes you get warmed up and ready to go. It gets you going,” Haugen said. “Instead of wanting to sit around, you want to get up and get going.”
Anne Wheaton, who is 96, walks with her daughter, Maridee Toates, 71, too. Wheaton grew up very active, teaching skating lessons and dancing. She likes to walk, even if she is more limited than when she was younger.
“I think it’s good exercise,” she said. “I always walked. I like to walk. Moving feels better.”
She also looks forward to the social aspect of getting together with a group three times a week.
“Seeing the other gals,” she said is her favorite thing. “You live alone, you enjoy other people.”