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Libraries Help Seniors Stay Healthy

Cognitive researchers say that reading helps exercise the brain. Now 37 libraries in Allegheny County are helping with another form of exercise: the libraries have begun their 5th year of hosting "Wise Walks" for people over 50 years old.

It's a 10-week walking program geared to help older residents stay healthy, in partnership with the Allegheny County Library Association, AARP and Highmark.

"Walking is something that anybody can do at any physical level that they're at. So it's something they can start slow at," said Kelly Altmire, Associate State Director for AARP. "We always say it's not about trying to reach a certain number of steps, it's just about increasing the number of steps that you do. And we've seen amazing progress. We have lots of examples of folks that have really changed the way that they are living their lives."

Altmire said there are also social reasons to get involved. "A lot of folks, they just can't wait to get in for the weekly group walks that they're doing," said Altmire. "Many of the libraries will plan an activity … For example, the Hill District library location, they've gone and visited different offices. I think they went down to visit their local state representative [on] one walk."

She said some of the libraries have teamed up with Venture Outdoors to go on guided walks while others have included stretching exercise lessons and cooking demonstrations. Last year more than 750 walkers trekked about 100,000 miles during the fall and spring programs.