Moon walking not uncommon for Roseville retirees

Maidu Walkers offer fitness, support and fun for retirees
By: Laura O’Brien Press Tribune Correspondent
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The Maidu Walkers have formed a family out of friendships begun through exercise. The club meets for daily walks around Maidu Regional Park and is affiliated with the senior programs at the Maidu Community Center in Roseville. But it’s the group’s social gatherings that set it apart. “It’s more talking than walking,” said Traudl Gumpp, who hails from Switzerland and has been a member of the group for about a year and a half. She and her husband found Maidu Walkers when they were new to the area and looking for a means of meeting people. Gumpp was part of a gathering of about 20 walkers who awaited the rising of the full moon last Saturday night from a truss bridge over the American River at the end of Fair Oaks Boulevard in Old Town Fair Oaks. In a social event they have dubbed their “Moon Walk,” group members seated on lawn chairs shared potluck hors d’oeuvres. Later they sang ditties containing the word “moon” as the last of the sky’s light lingered on the river. Due to rainy weather and vacations, Saturday was the group’s first “Moon Walk” this year, but the Maidu Walkers have been frequenting the bridge for at least 15 years, according to Mary Lou Stephens, who helps coordinate the event. Stephens, 88, said she got the idea for the “Moon Walk” after she attended an evening birthday party on the bridge. According to Fair Oaks residents Paul and Viki Spector, who brought a basket of food to the bridge Saturday, a local hardware store established the tradition of gathering on the bridge to gawk at the moon about 40 years ago. By 8:30 p.m., it was nearly too dark to read and most of the walkers had packed up their things and readied themselves for the only walking of the evening, the uphill trek back to their cars, which were parked about two blocks away due to parking restrictions. A couple individuals made the point of attending Saturday despite needing the help of attendants because of mobility limitations. The group has ministered to area seniors for about 21 years, according to Gene Potts, the group’s “unofficial town crier.” Liz Dumas and Bob Contramon started Maidu Walkers with a core group of about eight walkers right around when the Maidu Community Center opened in 1990. The group’s contact list now includes more than 50 names, said Potts, who has a degree in recreation administration and joined the group six years ago. The walkers leave from the rose garden next to the community center at 8 a.m. sharp in the summer and pick a day in the fall to switch to 9 a.m. starts. Most take a 1.4-mile inside path around Maidu Regional Park, but some opt for a longer 2.5-mile loop around the complex. Group members chat over coffee at the community center when they finish walking. On Saturdays when the center is closed they meet for their post-walk coffee at La Bou on Douglas Boulevard. On holidays, Potts said 40 to 50 group members gather for brunch at local restaurants. Other social events include a Halloween party at the community center, a Christmas dinner at Sierra View Country Club in Roseville, Kentucky Derby screening at Strikes bowling alley in Rocklin, hiking trips, potlucks and trips to members’ vacation spots. When asked to sum up the purpose of the group, Potts described it primarily as a support group or a friendship club. His wife attends some of the social gatherings but doesn’t walk regularly like Potts. “If something happens to me he has a support group,” said Maria-Elena Potts, who is seven years older than her husband. Stephens agreed that the walkers maintain close bonds. “If anybody isn’t there for a day or two we all look into it,” she said. “There isn’t anybody in the group who wouldn’t do something for another person.” Senior Recreation Supervisor Kate Miller manages the senior programs at the community center for the City of Roseville. The programs serve individuals ages 50 and older. “If I want to get someone involved in the senior center I encourage them to try walking,” Miller said. “It’s really great for a senior who might be a little timid about coming into a center to try to meet some new people and friends. “It emulates what we’re all about which is health and wellness and that means mind and body,” she said. Although taxpayer dollars represent the main funding source for the center’s programs, Miller said volunteers working a total of 1,800 annual hours keep the center running. Beyond senior activities, center volunteers including Maidu Walkers staff a referral desk, which provides information about health insurance programs, legal assistance and meal programs.