It’s early Saturday morning at Grossmont Center Food Court. Daphne Miller, a perky woman with cropped blonde hair, leads a group of seniors in a series of exercises while upbeat music plays out of a portable speaker. Dressed in sweats, sneakers and T-shirts, the seniors are here to pump up the cardio as part of the Grossmont Mall Walkers program.
Established more than three decades ago at the La Mesa mall — long before trendy Zumba, CrossFit and kettlebell workouts — the program brings together seniors from all walks of life who seek cardiovascular exercise in a non-gym setting. It not only promotes an active lifestyle, but also provides a social outlet for participants.
Most of the seniors are in their 70s and 80s and retired. The oldest is Marge, who at 96 is also an active volunteer at Sharp HospiceCare, Meals on Wheels and La Mesa Lions.
“They’ve logged a lot of miles over the years,” says Andrea Holmberg, program coordinator at Sharp Grossmont’s Senior Resource Center. “Some walkers have even made romantic connections,” she says, with a smile.
Lois Pasquale, 70, joined the group 10 years ago. The retired educator appreciates the social aspects and the physical benefits. “Walking helps control my blood pressure, and I’ve even lost some of my post-menopausal weight,” she says.
Dave Ordway, 85, also of La Mesa, has been walking with the group for more than 15 years, and enjoys the camaraderie — especially after recently losing his wife of 46 years. “Everyone knows each other,” he says.
It’s no surprise that the group is so tight-knit that they celebrate birthdays together. On this particular Saturday, the instructor leads the group in a birthday sing-along for two of the walkers. The Mall Walkers host other activities throughout the year, including an annual picnic.
“The walkers inspire me,” says Miller, who radiates positivity and has a degree in gerontology. “This is very beneficial for their health — and it’s free. The more you do for people, the more they feel connected,” she adds.
The Grossmont Mall Walkers meet every Saturday at 8 am and 9 am in the food court at Grossmont Center in La Mesa. New walkers are welcome.