Mile by mile, group marks milestone



William D. Lewis | The Vindicator To celebrate Copeland Oaks Retirement Community’s 50th anniversary, the wellness director at the facility, Susan Bleggi, came up with Golden Stride, a 50-mile walk — one mile at a time — as something that combines fitness and fun for residents and staff members. Carrying the banner are employees Linda Fox, left, and Liz Phillips.

By JoAnn Jones

Special to The Vindicator

Copeland Oaks Retirement Community in Sebring will celebrate its 50th anniversary Oct. 23, and Wellness Director Susan Bleggi wanted to do something to incorporate fitness for residents and employees as they join in the celebration.

Thus, they started this month — with a 50-mile walk, a mile at a time, every Tuesday (except the second Tuesday of every month) and Thursday at 12:15 p.m. She has named it the “Golden Stride.”

“I wanted to include something that included fitness and fun,” Bleggi said. “Walking is an exercise with so many benefits, but is also good because it doesn’t require any special equipment.”

“We are walking one mile each time, for every year,” she said. “Our 50th mile is scheduled for Oct. 22.”

“When I first said it to the residents,” she said, laughing, “one of them thought we were walking 50 miles all at once.”

“I’ve marked the course out,” she said. “We walk around the perimeter of the grounds. We can walk outside around the lake and enjoy our beautiful grounds here at Copeland Oaks.”

The group includes residents and employees of all ages, Bleggi said.

“We have a resident participating who is 96 years old,” she said. “We have people with walkers, married couples and people walking their dogs. Everyone walks at their own level and own pace. Some people are doing it on their own and keeping track of their miles.”

When they walk, Bleggi said, two people carry a banner that was made by Copeland Oaks employee Liz Phillips. Bleggi plans to have the walkers write their names on the banner when they’re finished, and then put it in the Copeland Oaks archives when the celebration is over.

“Then someone can look at what we did 50 years from now,” she said.

Bleggi, a registered nurse and certified group exercise instructor, said she is always pushing exercise because it’s another way for the residents to get involved.

Mary Schafer, a resident in one of the villas in Copeland Oaks, said it was good to get involved with something that had to do with the anniversary.

“It was a good way to get started [exercising] again,” said Schafer, a former Pittsburgh resident. “I missed the first walk, but I was dutiful and did an extra mile to make up for it. I just need to push myself to do it on a regular basis. I like to walk for exercise.”

“I was surprised how many people were out there for the walk,” Schafer added.

“Suzi [Bleggi] is so patient with me and never gives up on me,” Schafer said about the programs Bleggi offers the residents in addition to the walk. “I try to keep up with the kinds of exercise seniors should do. The wellness programs here are amazing.”

Karen and Lou Root, residents who moved to Copeland Oaks from New York in July, said they’ve been very pleased with Copeland Oaks and the wellness activities that are available.

“My husband and I do a lot of things together, although walking isn’t one of them,” Karen Root said, “because his strides are so much longer than mine.”

However, the two plan to participate in the anniversary walk.

“We haven’t walked with Suzi yet,” Lou Root said, “but walking is a good excuse to get outside. I’ve walked for many years.”

He goes to the exercise room on the fifth floor of the main Copeland Oaks building at 5:15 many mornings.

“I use the free weights in [Bleggi’s] classes,” he said, “and there are four nice flights of stairs I use, too.”

“The machines here are really good for rehabilitation,” Schafer added. “Everything here is so convenient and easy.”

Karen Root stressed that Bleggi keeps her involved in the exercise classes she offers.

“You just won’t give up on me,” she said to Bleggi.

Bleggi is so determined that the residents stay fit that she’s arranged for one of Copeland Oaks’ television stations to carry an exercise show.

“Channel 60 in-house has ‘B-Fit’ on 24 hours a day,” Bleggi said. She also teaches two yoga classes: one with pilates and a gentle yoga where residents can sit in or behind a chair instead of on the floor. She offers classes to both residents and employees.

“I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 30 years,” she added. “I am always promoting the benefits of exercise to strengthen muscles and bones, to prevent or better manage existing diseases, but most importantly, to prevent falls.”

“They’ve been fun,” Bleggi said of the residents participating in the Golden Stride. “Everyone who can is doing it. It’s just amazing that these people are so involved.”

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