When the doors to Black Diamond’s high school open for a day of learning, it’s not just teachers and students filling the halls.
Oilfields High School has been extending an invitation to local seniors to walk the hallways when class is in progress on cold and snowy days as part of a decade-long partnership with Alberta Health Services called Hall Walkers.
It’s a service that principal Caroline Roberts is proud to offer.
“This is my second year here and there’s always a consistent group of individuals that will walk the halls – not necessarily every single day, but they tend to come in groups of two or three,” she said. “We get about a handful of seniors each year. If the weather gets worse it will increase.”
Roberts said Hall Walkers helps build relationships between seniors and youth and has led to some seniors getting involved in the school.
“We had seniors last year who were volunteering in our foods and fashion class with sewing, knitting and crocheting,” she said.
It’s also a way to keep seniors active when weather conditions are bad, Roberts said.
“They all comment about how they appreciate this opportunity so they are getting out and getting active and being able to socialize,” he said. “They all very much appreciate it.
“It’s a great opportunity for the seniors in our community and for our school. It’s a real sense of community.”
Black Diamond senior Leslie Miller said he’s been enjoying Hall Walkers since he and a 93-year-old friend joined earlier this fall.
“I probably wouldn’t use the service as much because I’m very active and out and about a lot, but my friend isn’t and I need some place to go with him and walk,” he said. “It’s there if you need it, whether you use it once a week or four times a week.”
Miller said it’s a great resource during a time of year when the weather can make it difficult for people to remain active. He enjoys his walks through the halls of the local high school.
“Everyone I met there is very polite and smiling and generally happy to have us there,” he said. “It’s a very friendly social environment.”
During their first walk, Miller said staff gave them a tour of the school and a schedule of the class changes and days the school is closed.
“The periods are 80 minutes so if you get there just after a class changes you have more time than you need to wander that square and sit down at the table if you like and the cafeteria is open quite often,” he said. “It’s a great service. I’m just happy it’s there. I commend the high school.”
Miller has been walking in the school two or three times a week.
“We live close to the high school so we can just go over,” he said. “It’s very convenient.”
Oilfields General Hospital physiotherapist Karen Van Heyst said the staff hand out pamphlets to senior clients that list indoor walking facilities in Aldersyde, Black Diamond, Heritage Heights, High River and Okotoks.
Ideally, Van Heyst would like to see a fitness arena or centre, but said it’s about making the best of a situation when there is no indoor walking track in town.
Van Heyst said it doesn’t appeal to all seniors, but it’s great for those who use it.
“I do see the benefits,” she said. “Safety is the big one. We have a lot of ice and snow in our community so with walking in the school people don’t have to worry about slipping and falls. Being able to exercise inside you are in control of the environment.”
Van Heyst said staff encourages seniors to use equipment indoors on a daily basis.
Seniors interested in joining the Hall Walkers can contact Oilfields High School at 403-938-4973 or stop at the school to fill out a consent form.