Seniors plan to walk the walk for Bellevue center

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

She might have lost a step after she pulled a hip muscle, and she spent much of the past year using a walker and a cane.

Yet Dorothy Carroll, who is almost 99, still makes staying active a priority. She has regained much of her strength, moving her feet for as much as a half hour each day by strolling to the grocery store and ambling near her home in Avalon.

“I think you have to walk to stay with it,” she said, referring to the effects of walking on her mental and physical well-being.

Carroll and several other seniors from northern Allegheny County take part in a fitness program at the PrimeTime Activity Center in Bellevue. A group of seniors from the center is seeking to raise money for the facility in connection with an annual fundraising walk this weekend.

The Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community is expected to draw several groups from across the region, supporting about 70 health and human services nonprofits. The approximately three-mile walk is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 17 beginning at Stage AE, on the North Shore. Fourteen representatives of the center plan to walk.

Team Bellevue, the walking group, hopes to raise about $1,000 for the Lutheran Service Society, which operates the PrimeTime senior center. The group has helped to raise about $60,000 for the nonprofit since 2006.

The Bellevue center runs a SilverSneakers program, which is common at senior citizens' facilities. It is meant to restore mobility and improve posture among seniors and older adults, with classes ranging from Pilates to tai chi to yoga.

While Carroll does not plan to walk in the fundraiser this year, her longevity and her resilience over the past year have proved encouraging to those whom she has grown close to at the center. This summer, she said, she expects to resume her exercise routines.

“I want to be like her when I grow up,” Patricia Pacey, 70, a fitness instructor who has long run the SilverSneakers classes at the center, said of Carroll. Both of them plan to volunteer at a booth at the walk.

An energetic woman who worked as a training director for a North American weight-loss company, Pacey has taught exercise classes at the center for 16 years. The Avalon resident said exercise has remained a constant in her life — she finished first in her age group in the Pittsburgh Marathon's 5K race this month.

“You've got to make the time,” Pacey said, noting that she makes it a point to take at least 10,000 steps each day, wearing a device tracking her distance. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, nearly every day.

Pacey also teaches a balance training class for seniors at the center, which is funded by the county's Area Agency on Aging. The classes are viewed by the two dozen or so people who take them each week as a social outlet.

Many are widows and widowers, including Carroll. While she occasionally sees her three children, all of whom live outside the state, Carroll has said she has outlived many of her longtime friends and enjoys the camaraderie of the PrimeTime center fitness program.

“It's more like a family,” Pacey said.

Jake Flannick is a freelance writer.

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