Five Ways Walking Can Improve and Extend Older Americans’ Lives

Take a walk in the woods at Bentley Commons at Keene

It’s long been understood that a body in motion, stays in motion. Sir Isaac Newton taught us that. But 95-year-old Barbara Hull Richardson can teach us a thing or two as well. When asked how she stays motivated to walk almost daily on the trails adjacent to her home at Bentley Commons at Keene, she says, “You just have to take care of yourself.”

Hull Richardson’s lived quite the life. A life during which she saw “Casa Blanca” nine times with a friend from Bryn Mawr during the war (“We actually had to walk about 10 miles from the college to the theater in Philadelphia one time.”). A life during which she earned her Masters in Social Work from Smith College at age 50 (“And I did better than the younger folks.”). Hull Richardson’s life also saw her represent the Cheshire 5 District from 1992-2010 in the N.H. State House. (And even during our interview she was lobbying to install a Peace Pole at Bentley Commons at Keene.)

Among the many things this mother of four was right about (mother does know best, after all), she was right about exercise.

At senior living and assisted living facilities across the nation, the importance of staying as active as possible in your later years is emphasized. From exercise helping you recall words, to the lure of same age exercise groups, exercising your rights, and abilitiy to move, are not only key, but to Hull Richardson, a duty.

Research collected by the Arthritis Foundation shows a regular walking routine like hers may be contributing in a variety of ways, including:

  • Strengthens muscles and bones
  • Extends life expectancy
  • Improves mood
  • Lowers Alzheimer’s risk
  • Improves cardiovascular health

At Bentley Commons at Keene, one does not only have the beautiful trails and a short half mile walk to the heart of downtown Keene to take advantage of, but an extensive activity program that includes tai chi, chair yoga, low-impact aerobics, strength training, gardening and walking groups. Hull Richardson chooses to walk alone, and while she’s not sponsored by a sneaker company, nor does she necessarily recall whether she wears Nikes or Rockports, she does know one thing: “I wear them out.”

Hull Richardson also takes in some sedentary activities on occasion. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the actress come and tell Granny D’s story.” Doris “Granny D.” Haddock was a N.H. woman who walked across the country at 89 to promote campaign finance reform and later campaigned for U.S. Senate.

When asked who her favorite musical artist is, Hull Richardson doesn’t miss a beat: “It’s Deborah Wyndham. She plays piano and she comes here every few months.”

Hull Richardson adds, “Another wonderful thing here: The physical and occupational therapists assess every single resident--no matter whether you're assisted living or independent. Every three months they put you through a whole series of tests, take your blood pressure, whatever other vitals (she laughs) and then they do exercises and give you a memory test and physical activity test. Every three months." Learn more about the Bentley Commons at Keene Optimal Living - Proactive Wellness.

"This place is really, unbelievably wonderful and I'm so thrilled to be here,” says Hull Richardson.

When told she’s a grand ambassador for Bentley Commons at Keene, Hull Richardson says she’s happy to help it become better in any way she can, but then reconsiders. “But that’s impossible. I’m happy to help keep it as great as it is.”

WHAT Bentley Commons at Keene

WHERE 197 Water St., Keene, NH

CONTACT www.bentleyatkeene.com, (603) 352-1282