She laces up her walking shoes and grabs her cane. She’s proudly wearing her Soul Steppers t-shirt. Eight blocks later, 69-year-old Florida Hargrove has hardly broken a sweat although she’s a bit winded.
“I walk every day,” said Hargrove. “Five days a week, that is. I take Saturdays and Sundays off. I’m five or six blocks from the street car line and the pharmacy in Carrollton. My neighborhood is very walkable.”
Walking has been part of Hargrove’s lifestyle in New Orleans, but joining an AARP walking club made a 37 pound difference in her life.
“My doctor couldn’t believe it,” Hargrove said. “My children couldn’t believe it. My son who is a police captain said, ‘Mom, what did you do? What’s wrong?’ I wear baggy clothing so nobody seemed to notice that I had been walking every day, eating better and losing weight. But now my diabetes is under control. I look better and feel better. I owe it all to the Soul Steppers Walking Club and AARP.”
According to Linedda McIver, Associate State Director of Multicultural Outreach, “Scheduling a date to walk with a friend, family member or neighbor keeps you accountable to your fitness goals. An encourager keeps pushing you to increase your distance and pace. The Soul Steppers Walking Clubs celebrate your accomplishments and keep you going. Walking clubs give you the tools you need to make healthier choices, eat the right foods and live your best life.”
Nearly ten AARP walking clubs are organized in the New Orleans area supporting over 100 people ranging in age from 21 to 80. Hargrove didn’t know about the Soul Steppers until she overheard folks talking about it. At first she questioned the information because she didn’t know AARP helped to organize walking clubs.
“I had no idea that AARP was starting walking clubs in New Orleans until I heard my friends talking about it,” said Hargrove.”After meeting with the Hollygrove Soul Steppers, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. It has been a blessing.”
Hargrove comes from a hardy and healthy lineage that boasts longevity. Her mother lived into her 90’s and her uncle lived until 112.
“I’ve got the genes to live a long time if I take care of myself,” Hargove said. “As my mother used to say, if you give it up, you can hang it up.”