Swan River elders walking their way to health

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Down at the field house track in Slave Lake, a group of elders from the Swan River/Kinuso area spend an hour walking every Tuesday morning. This is their fourth winter doing it, in combination with a program of improved nutrition, and the results are remarkable.
“Virgie lost 150 lbs,” says registered nurse Lorraine Rubisch, who started and facilitates the program.
“I lost 170!” says Virgie Davis, correcting her.
She’s not the only one to show astonishing improvement in the course of the program. Rubisch – who works at the Swan River Health Clinic – says one of the men in the program has lost 150 lbs also, and another woman 75 lbs.
“That’s Robert,” she says, indicating a grey-haired gent moving quickly around the track. “He wouldn’t come out of his house. Now he does seven kilometres. He runs!”
“That’s Gloria,” she says, as one of the women goes by at a steady pace. “She could barely walk.”
Another of the gents – one of the big weight-losers – could also barely move and suffered from depression and now is getting out and going well.
“They motivate each other,” Rubisch says.
Eight to 10 people are in the program this winter. Rubisch says they pretty much all were completely sedentary during the winter months – not moving much and not eating very well. Diabetes and high blood pressure were common. She got the idea for the program, “got permission from my higher-ups” and went ahead with it. Working in the health centre, she knew the people and was familiar with their health challenges.
In addition to the weekly exercise, the group will go out for lunch afterward “and talk about nutrition,” Rubisch says. The results speak for themselves and not just in mobility and weight loss. Blood sugars are under better control, spirits are improved, hospital visits are reduced.
“They’ve become mentors in the community,” she says
Back to Virgie Davis.
“I was 300 lbs,” she says, pulling a photo out of her purse to prove it. “My daughter told me if I walk I would feel better.”
Does she?
“Yes! I can go shopping and everything.”
A factor in the program that should be acknowledged is that the walking track is free for seniors, thanks to community sponsorship.
“We’re grateful,” says Rubisch.

Success story

This group of Swan River folks has been getting out of the house every Tuesday morning for some walking exercise on the field house track in Slave Lake, with big health benefits. Pictured are (back row, (l. to r.) Louis Sound, Victor Holmes, Robert Courtoreille and program facilitator Lorraine Rubisch. Front row: Virgie Davis, Gloria Giroux, Clarence Sound.

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