Last spring, two local women spent part of their lunch hour exercising in the now-closed Southwyck Shopping Center.
Like dozens of others who for years roamed the halls of the Southwyck Shopping Center in the early morning hours, Phyllis Coy lost her indoor exercise area when the mall closed in June.
"When I would see people walking with walkers, people with oxygen tanks, and people who had been in car accidents trying to learn to walk again, I asked my husband, 'What are those people going to do when that mall closes?'•" said Mrs. Coy, 64, of Maumee who is an early morning walker.
Mrs. Coy and her husband and fellow morning walker Dennis Coy wrote to Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, asking where seniors could get their morning exercise.
Yesterday, Ms. Wozniak announced the answer, with five sites across the county where seniors can walk indoors.
Ms. Wozniak said seniors can walk at Westfield Franklin Park, the YMCA Morse Center on the University of Toledo health science campus, the YMCA at Wolf Creek, the Kmart at 2244 South Reynolds Road, and the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee.
She said the five-site plan was the result of a brainstorming session between officials from the city, county, UT, and the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio Inc.
"Walking just creates such a sense of wellness," Ms. Wozniak said. "We have cold, harsh winters at times, so we wanted to have indoor opportunities."
Mrs. Coy said as many as 50 senior citizens used to walk in Southwyck before it closed.
She began walking at the mall about a decade ago to accompany a friend 20 years her senior, and kept going there a few times a week until the mall closed.
Except for the YMCA at Wolf Creek, the service, available for all county residents, is free. To walk at Wolf Creek, a resident would have to pay $1 with every visit.
A flyer with times and a cut-out "membership card" for entry is available at senior centers, the YMCA, the Area Office on Aging, and the commissioners' office at Government Center.
The YMCA will use indoor tracks at its two locations, which previously were available only to members.
"It made sense to us, at a time when people might not have the resources they normally do, that we can come together to meet a need in the community, which is an indoor place to walk," said Todd Tibbits, senior vice president of operations for the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.
The recreation center will be open for walkers only on Wednesdays.
Kmart and Westfield have always welcomed walkers of all ages, but Kmart officials said they hadn't promoted the service before.
"When I first heard about the mall closing and basically the mall walkers losing their place where they're exercising at, I just wanted to offer them a place that was close by and basically get a little bit more foot traffic in our store," said Brett Ovall, loss-prevention manager for the Kmart store.
He said having seniors, some with disabilities, exercising in the store wouldn't be a liability issue for Kmart.
"If there are people with disabilities, they're free to come into the store and shop," Mr. Ovall said. "I don't see how them walking in the store would be any different."
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