‘Bobcat Stride’ senior citizen walking program hits the ground running

Aidan Sheedy, Copy Editor

More feet will be shuffling on Quinnipiac University’s North Haven campus as the university began its senior citizen fitness program, “Bobcat Stride,” on Feb. 23, bringing active locals in from the cold and into a healthier lifestyle.

“We just want to be a resource for the community,” said Karla Natale, associate vice president for community partnerships. “We want to be able to provide something for (senior citizens) especially.”

The program runs weekly from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on the second floor of the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. Bobcat Stride aims to keep local senior residents inside a heat- ed facility to exercise. It is open to the public for those 50 years and older and any Quinnipiac students. Participants are required to sign a liability waiver upon arrival.

Aidan Sheedy

Natale and her team created a walking route so it resembles the path of mall walkers. She said it is typical to see many senior citizens speed walk through the concourse of a shop- ping mall in the mornings.

The team marked the route around the circumference of the second floor, measuring a total of exactly a quarter of a mile. About every 10 feet, floor signs with bright yellow arrows indicate the walkers’ next step forward.

“What it means to be a part of the community, is just to be there,” Natale said. “I would want the same thing. I wouldn’t want to be treated as someone who is not contributing as much. They are very important and we want them to know they are important.”

Many senior citizens returned for their third morning of walking in the early morning of Feb. 28, evidently feeling healthy and appreciated.

North Haven residents Thomas and Rosemary Calamo took their walk together, a change from their normal routine.

“We usually walk around our neighborhood, but when we heard about this … it’s inside so it sounded a lot warmer,” Rosemary Calamo said.

Thomas Calamo said he and his wife exercise a lot, but found it difficult in the winter to also stay warm while engaging in physical activity.

“It was good for us because you’re not out in the elements like the snow and rain,” Thomas Calamo said.

Fourth-year health science studies major Victoria O’Toole helped come up with ideas and refined the smaller details of the tri-weekly event.

“It may give students within the health care field some opportunity to volunteer and add stuff to their resume,” said O’Toole, who is entering a graduate occupational therapy program. “I plan on volunteering at least once a week.”

Utilizing her background in occupational therapy and her knowledge from previously working at an assisted living home, O’Toole was able to find a sense of accomplishment with her involvement in the project.

“Giving (senior citizens) a spot to welcome them on campus gives them more resources,” O’Toole said. “It feels good to give more opportunity.”

Those opportunities brought in grateful North Haven residents like 69-year-old Barbara Munck.

“I love that (Quinnipiac) is an age-friendly university, reaching out to the community and trying to be a part of it,” Munck said. “I really love when what’s offered at a university is available to people in the community.”

Munck, a retired Yale University professor, said this new program was exactly the thing she needed to get out of bed in the morning.

“I needed a kick-start,” Munck said. “It’s real easy to stay in bed a long time, so this might be a good way to change my routine.”

Promoting a healthy lifestyle was the backbone of this initiative, Natale said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average adult needs 150 minutes a week of physical activity, including walking, to better their health.

North Haven resident Josephine Reilly, 83, said she is appreciative of the program’s support for the community’s seniors. Reilly said she wants Quinnipiac to give back the same gratitude she has felt over the years.

“(Quinnipiac) has been helping out,” Reilly said. “I’d like to help them out too.”

Reilly has been walking every morning since she moved to the area 40 years ago. Since the kick-off event on Feb. 23, she said she has already accumulated more than 10 miles in her steps.

“I always wake up at 5:30,” Reilly said. “I feel great. Now it’s time to go home and start the day.”

Any students interested in participating can contact Natale at [email protected] for details.