Philosopher Hippocrates declared “walking is a man’s best medicine” more than 2,000 years ago. In modern times, most people are aware of the benefits of walking and know it is important to stay active and keep moving as you age. Overwhelming evidence has been presented to encourage us to walk more and yet many of us lack the motivation to start or maintain a regular exercise routine. When asked why this might be, people often list boredom as one of the biggest contributing factors.
Walking by yourself can truly be boring. Walking the same routes day after day can be dreadfully monotonous. Luckily for Mercer Island seniors, this isn’t a problem thanks to the Solemates walking group, led by a dedicated volunteer and her appreciative band of followers who help banish boredom one step at a time.
Solemates is a walking group that is offered as a senior program through the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department. Walkers range in age from 55 to older than 80 years old, with several walkers who have been walking with the group since it formed 21 years ago. This program was founded and continues to be organized by retired Mercer Island teacher, Fran Call who never ceases to amaze her walking group with her dedication and passion for the program.
“It continually surprises me how much Fran knows about each one of us, how much she cares,” Meg Lippert, a Solemates participant enthuses. “It’s a huge group to keep track of — kids, grandkids, travels, losses, celebrations, and even, at our age, engagements! Fran is on top of all the details. Solemates is a nourishing, celebratory, and healing community. I feel fortunate to be a part of it.”
Solemates has more than 50 loyal walkers who meet each week, rain or shine to walk three to four miles together, followed by a visit to a coffee shop. The program explores a different neighborhood in the region each week to keep the walks fresh and energizing.
When asked about her favorite part of walking with Solemates, Islander Amy Ting said, “Each week I get to enjoy diverse walks with interesting, friendly people and all I need to do is show up!”
Walking in an organized group such as Solemates not only eliminates boredom, it provides accountability, motivation, and safety. You are more likely to stick to your walking commitment when you walk in a group because it is harder to cancel when you have a friend waiting for you. It is more fun exercising with a friend and research shows that those who work out together can maintain harder effort without realizing it. Walking in groups is safer than walking by yourself. You never know when you might need a little help, and if you are walking with the Mercer Island Solemates, you will have 49 or so friends willing to step in to lend a hand.
When Solemates participants were asked about the benefits of walking with the group, Jinny McCarty said she loves how the miles melt away with good conversation and added that she “enjoys getting heart healthy exercise without any drudgery.”
The number one most common response from participants polled was that they benefited greatest from the camaraderie and encouraging support found in the program.
After taking the summer off, the Solemates walks have resumed today. Walkers meet at the Community Center every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. No sign-ups are required and every walker is welcome. Join in anytime and start walking your way to better health and new friends.
Amber Britton is a parks and recreation professional with more than 28 years of experience. She has worked for the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department for the past 12 years in a variety of roles and is currently managing the senior programs as one of her primary responsibilities.