Promoting Walking Safety at the Long Branch Senior Center
Walking is a healthy form of exercise for senior citizens and it’s something seniors can do at no cost for as long as they can walk. Walking outdoors gives everyone the chance to get fresh air and is good for the spirit and mind as well as the body. On February 26, 2018, two members of EZ Ride’s Bike & Ped team went to the Long Branch Senior Center and spoke to 36 seniors about the benefits and hazards of walking in busy urban areas. With a large influx of tourists and visitors to the city in the summer who both drive and walk, we wanted to promote walking as a means of physical activity as well as share tips on how to walk safely in traffic congested areas.
EZ Ride has a special presentation designed for seniors which covers some of the health benefits of walking including:
- lowering the risk of heart disease
- halving the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
- alleviating depression/fatigue
- improving mood, attention, and decision-making
- reducing lower back pain
- strengthening legs and arms
- reducing or maintaining weight
- improving blood pressure
We also like to share with seniors how eating some foods such as fresh pineapple can reduce body inflammation and arthritis/joint pain, while other foods in the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) can increase inflammation. Seniors love to learn about how their diet can specifically help with their health and ability to do more activities.
We also talk about the need to be “alert and defensive walkers” because there are so many distracted drivers nowadays. We suggest walkers wear bright reflective clothing and get the attention of drivers before they step off the curbs to cross an intersection. For seniors, we encourage them to walk with a friend and to be aware of the sensory changes that occur with age that can impact their safety. Seniors may walk slower, have a harder time seeing/hearing traffic and signals, and have slower reaction times. Seniors should not attempt to walk when they may be impacted by their medications, and nobody should walk wearing headphones or ear buds that prevent them from clearly hearing what is happening as they walk. We like to end our talks with a brief quiz and to give away bike lights and reflectors for seniors to attach to wheelchairs, walkers and scooters so they can be seen by drivers.
New Jersey outpaces the national average in terms of pedestrian fatalities, both for pedestrians over 60 and those who are younger. An article written by Steve Strunsky in The Star Ledger on August 17th, 2014 noted that “older pedestrians in New Jersey are more likely to be killed by automobiles than their counterparts in other states, according to an analysis of the nearly 47,000 pedestrians killed nationwide from 2003 through 2012.The analysis also found that pedestrians age 60 and older in New Jersey are far more likely to be struck and killed than younger people.” Seniors who are frail and have less dense bones are at a much greater risk in crashes.
“In the 10 years between 2002-12, the share of New Jersey residents 60 and older increased from 17.3 percent of the population to 19.7 percent,” an analyst for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign noted in the same article.“ That percentage will increase even more in the future as the baby boomer population ages so it’s crucial for municipalities to redesign communities with the needs of active older residents in mind. Pedestrian-safety focused initiatives for a busy urban area can include:
- Prioritizing funding for “complete streets” projects, which make roadways safer for both pedestrians and cyclists
- Making road and lighting improvements a priority in areas with many crashes and seniors
- Educating pedestrians of all ages about how to walk safely
- Increasing fines for drivers who are involved in pedestrian crashes/fatalities
For more info or if you wish to setup a senior presentation about walking or biking safety, please contact Lisa Lee at email@example.com or 201-939-4242, x123.
About the Grantee
EZ Ride is a non-profit, public-private partnership with a mission to implement transportation programs and services that enhance quality of life, regional mobility and economic opportunity while reducing traffic congestion & air pollution. The Bike & Ped team offers Safe Routes to School (SRTS) services and works to build safe and healthy communities.
Cohort: Central 2
Funder: New Jersey Department of Health
Cities: Long Branch