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Steppin' Out -- Livable Oregon

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By Elaine Friesen-Strang

My assignment was to write a blog about walking.  It was due last week, but I just didn't know how to approach a subject so...pedestrian.  Walking, the coordinated effort of putting one foot in front of the other to propel oneself forward (preferably not downward), is something many of us do throughout the day without much thought of the process or function.  Turns out, creativity is hard to spark sitting in a chair, staring at my iPad screen, so I went outside for a walk.

 Henry David Thoreau gave us this:  "Me thinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow."  In his essay devoted entirely to the subject,  Thoreau wrote he walked four hours each day and credited "sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields" to preserving his "health and spirt".  Friedrich Nietzsche: "All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking."  According to Geoff Nicholson (The Lost Art of Walking), Erik Satie walked six miles every day to his studio in Paris and reportedly did much of his composition on his nightly walks home. On a sunny morning in Portland, I took in the crisp autumn air, mindfully walking towards no particular destination. Along the way, I encountered spider webs hanging from nowhere, fallen horse chestnuts, overgrown vegetable gardens planted in parking strips, and of course, a few dogs pulling their humans on leashes.  My thoughts were released along with my energy, newfound possibilities emerged.

 What gets your mind active, does great things for your health too.  You know walking can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of diabetes.  The Arthritis Foundation also praises the activity for preventing hip fractures, relieving back pain, increasing bone density, and warding off glaucoma.  HuffPost Healthy Living lists 13 mental health benefits including reducing stress, boosting "happy chemicals" and sharpening your memory.   Sadly, despite the evidence pushing us to move, we're sitting more than ever. The World Health Organization reports physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.

 Years ago, Australia started a global movement entitled "Walktober", a month designated to celebrate walking. It's the country's largest active community event, inviting people to walk to shops, hold walking meetings, and join friends in strolls.  Their tagline:  "Moving lives one step at a time."  Oregon joined the celebration in 2012.  Noel Mickelberry, executive director of Oregon Walks, explains their advocacy organization "wanted to build community around walking... to encourage people to walk in groups, learn a new route in their neighborhood or explore a part of the city they have never been to before. "  At www.walktoberpdx.org you can find a shared online calendar of walks happening around the region.  Ms. Mickelberry says, "We believe that the huge benefits that come from walking - health, environmental and societal - are imperative for the livability of our communities for everyone."

Charles Dickens was an avid walker, often engaging his visitors on long walks before dinner. He wrote, "Walk and be happy, walk and be healthy."  October is one of Oregon's most magnificent months.  Claim an hour as your own or share it with a friend.  Then step outside, take a deep breath, and put your best foot forward.

 AARP Oregon is a 2014 Walktober sponsor. Join AARP volunteers at the following events during the month:

October 11 Long time trails advocate and AARP volunteer Don Baack, leads a SW Urban Trails Walk, 9:00 AM

October 15  Jo Talent Community Walk led by Steve Juul, AARP Volunteer and member of the Talent Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Talent Community Center, 3:00 PM

October 22  Co-sponsored by APANO (Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon) and Oregon Walks:  Walk/Talk in the Jade District 4:30 PM

Visit www.walktoberpdx.org for more events or to post your own event.

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Welcome to Livable Oregon.

What makes a community livable? What do neighborhoods need to help people of all ages live active, engaged lives? Livable Oregon explores the features of age-friendly communities, the people who help create them, and what we can do to make our neighborhoods in Oregon a great place for everyone.

This blog takes its lead from the AARP Livable Communities Initiative which seeks to improve the quality of life for older adults by promoting the development of safe, accessible, and vibrant environments. AARP Livable Communities policies address issues such as land use, housing, and transportation which are vital to developing communities that facilitate aging in place.

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About our lead blogger:

My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I understand the need for lifelong, livable communities as a mother who raised two children, a daughter who helped care for her father, a professional guardian who served adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and a woman who is experiencing the mixed blessings of aging. Volunteering for AARP and other advocacy organizations empowers me to help make my neighborhood and a more livable, sustainable place for everyone.

About AARP States
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