BY JANET MANDELSTAM
Those folks striding through College Mall in the morning aren’t early bird shoppers — they’re Bloomington-area seniors getting their exercise.
Mall walking isn’t new, but it got a formal boost when Bell Trace, a senior living community, teamed up with College Mall in October to offer an enhanced walking program. Walkers register to participate in the program, which is held on the first and third Mondays of the month from 8–10 a.m., times they won’t have to compete with crowds heading for stores and restaurants since mall businesses don’t open until 10 a.m.
The program is part of the Bell Trace commitment to encourage senior wellness, says Jeanne Marie May, director of community engagement, and that includes staying active. About 70 seniors, some of them Bell Trace residents, have signed up for the twice-monthly walks. Markers on the mall floor indicate the distance traveled so that walkers can track their mileage and earn rewards ranging from a water bottle for walking 50 miles to a Fitbit for racking up 2,500.
Bell Trace provides wellness information, along with healthy snacks like fruit and zucchini bread baked by its staff. The long-term plan, May says, is to offer health screenings and other services as well. “The more we grow, the more we’ll do,” she says.
College Mall was a willing partner. “We want to provide the community with an opportunity for exercise, especially in the winter months when they can’t walk outside,” says Candace Kilburn, director of marketing and business development. The mall has long been a gathering place for local residents, she notes. “With this new program, we will be able to connect in a more meaningful way with even more members of our community,” says Kilburn.
While mall walking can keep seniors active in winter, it will be a year-round program that promotes more than physical well-being. “It’s also a social activity, a way to meet other people and promote interaction,” May says. “And older women say the mall feels like a safe place to exercise.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the program and joining the walkers can drop by the mall office any time or visit the Bell Trace table at the mall on Monday mornings.