MyChamplainValley: Your Best Life: Senior Striders Program

May is mental health awareness month. Loneliness and isolation can negatively affect mental health, especially in seniors. The increased isolation that came with the pandemic only made the impact worse.

In Vermont, there’s a program that’s helping seniors live healthier and happier one stride at a time. One senior, Cynthia Rugg, doesn’t take spending time with her friends for granted.

“Right now, I’m living alone, I need to have more people around me at times, because you do get lonesome because my husband passed away.”

She goes out early to the University Mall in South Burlington to take advantage of the Striders program. Age Well Vermont teamed up with MVP Healthcare to create the program.

“We started this Striders program with the intention of making sure that we had some wellness programming available to older Vermonters,” says Tracey Shamberger, the director of business development and communications with Age Well.

It’s not just about walking, it’s about connecting and fighting loneliness.

“It’s not an uncommon problem, and people should not feel afraid to say that they feel lonely,” says Dr. Dawn Gonsalves of MVP Healthcare.

Loneliness can take a toll. Research conducted earlier this year at the University of Michigan found one in three adults ages 50 to 80 felt isolated from others.

“We know that there are many, many older Vermonters who are socially isolated. This is really a great program to get people out. You can do it if you have a disability. We welcome people to participate at whatever level is their comfort,” adds Shamberger.

Rugg has found the program therapeutic; “I’m enjoying exercising and it’s nice to meet new people. It exposes me to another environment and gets me in a different location.”

Striders run every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. through June 14th at the University Mall in South Burlington. It will eventually to Wheeler Park. Additional programs will be coming to Addison and Franklin counties on different days of the week.

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