Independent living residents at Northfield Retirement Communities lace up their walking shoes and get outside for the new program “Let’s Get Moving” twice a week.

Lola Gonzales, resident coordinator at Northfield Retirement Communities, said the program was implemented in May 2020 and is the first organized walking program for the facility.

“We walk around the building and take breaks for stretching along the way,” Gonzales said. “Even at a slow pace, walking can still reduce the risk of heart disease, lower the risk of osteoporosis, reduce body fat and enhance your feeling of well-being.”

Gonzales started with Northfield in 2019, teaching senior fitness classes and developing programs to keep the residents in their best health possible.

She said she was excited to start a senior walking program, as it’s one of the easiest forms of physical activity for residents. Seniors also need to get outside and enjoy the fresh air for both their physical and mental well-being.

“It was important to keep safety in mind,” Gonzales said. “During this time when the nation is dealing with coronavirus, we’ll observe social distance recommendations. Plus we’ve included stretching exercises at the beginning and end of our walks.”

Another class is also offered to Northfield’s independent living residents — the “Seniors on the Move” program. Two days a week, class members are outside for more focused stretching for flexibility, including some tai chi exercises. It’s designed not only as exercise, but also to help build cardiac strength.

Stretching has a number of benefits, from helping to increase circulation to building strong joints and improving posture. It reduces the risk of injury in older people.

Gonzales said walking, in addition to being a simple exercise for seniors, benefits people of all ages.

“It doesn’t have to be far, but take a walk around your neighborhood,” she said. “Or take your dog for a walk and bring your children along.”

Gonzales thanked Bill Johnson, CEO of Northfield Retirement Communities, for his great passion for seniors, knowing how important it is to stay active to stay healthy.

During their Monday morning walk around the Northfield campus, the ladies in the program, some of them in their 80s, stopped by the garden that the gardening group works during the growing season.

Working in the garden that morning was Connie McDonnough, another member of the Let’s Get Moving program. She retired from the Cancer Treatment Center at Regional West Medical Center and said she understands the importance of overall senior wellness.

“I think it’s important for all of us to continue exercising as we age,” McDonnough said. “For me, it helps with physical, emotional and spiritual health. It keeps me engaged in the world around me and gives me the ability to continue gardening and the other activities I love.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at

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