Garden of the Gods ‘health walks’ to start Sept. 8

       With the Baby Boomer generation nearing retirement, a group of Colorado Springs leaders calling themselves the “Innovations in Aging Collaborative” brainstormed ways last April to “make Colorado Springs a remarkable place in which to age.”
       One of the first tangible results of their plan - which lists wellness and recreation as a high priority - will be on the move at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center , 30th Street at Gateway Road, Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 9 a.m. with the start of a free, weekly “health walk” series.
       “It's a whole new dimension for the park,” enthused Visitor Center volunteer Jeanne McElderry. “We have no idea who will come, but we're envisioning an intergenerational group, even moms with strollers.”
       Walking routes of one, two or three miles will be offered so as “to enhance personal fitness while enjoying the late summer beauty of the Park,” she elaborates in a press release.
       In conjunction with that, a class in UCCS' Beth-El College of Nursing & Health Sciences plans to “adopt” the health walks, according to Megan Fisher, associate Director of Development of UCCS' University of Colorado Foundation and a member of the “Innovations” steering committee. “They [the students] will be offering tips on stretching and overall fitness.”
       Afterward, participants will be given a free “nourishing refreshment,” McElderry said.
       The latter feature may remind some people of the informal Tuesday night Jack Quinn runs, in which people run through downtown, then come back to the pub for a beer. According to Fisher, that is not a coincidence. The idea came up during the brainstorming, and it evolved into a plan for the Visitor Center.
       Hikers can also stay after for educational talks. According to a McElderry e-mail, “in September these are Garden items - Melissa Walker will discuss the 'mission' of the visitor center, Bonnie Frum will portray Alice Perkins from the Magpie Players and discuss the 'gift' of the Garden, Bette Lamore will do her Magpie Players' Katharine Lee Bates and offer the story of “America The Beautiful,” and Bret Tennis will present the 'secret' of the Garden and the discovery of theophytaliakerri and honey ants - both unique to the Park. Then in October, we will focus on 'what is out there?' with a program about the prairie falcon, rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep and bats.”
       McElderry said the initial schedule for the Garden's health walks calls for them to continue only through October. However, she foresees the possibility of their going on indefinitely. “I think if this thing takes off, why not do it year-round?” she suggested.
       Reservations are not required. Participants will meet at the Visitor Center's Red Rocks Room before heading out.
       Along with wellness and recreation, other “key topics” for seniors identified by the Innovations in Aging Collaborative are life-long learning, arts and culture, living communities, economic opportunities, and urban planning and transportation.
       Baby Boomers (ages 45 to 63) are estimated to make up about a quarter of the U.S. population.
       For more information on the health walks, call the Visitor Center at 219-0108.

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