Walking to fit retirement

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

For the majority of people retirement is uppermost in their minds when they hit 60.

For a group of Kagiso residents it is an age that signals life has just begun.

Started in October 2006, the Mogale Elderly Health and Walk Club was the brainchild of retiree Solly Modise.

Suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes, Modise decided to do something about his health.

"I was taking up to 10 tablets a day yet I still had no energy," Modise says. "Even a simple chore like putting out the rubbish bin left me breathless."

Looking for a sport that didn't require a big financial outlay, Modise opted for a pair of running shoes and took to the streets of Kagiso, Mogale City.

"At first I walked short distances and as my fitness improved I ventured a bit further," he says.

"Elderly and retired people used to see me in the morning and ask why I was walking - and that is where I got the idea to start a club for elderly people."

From just four people at the outset the club has grown to 80 members and continues to grow monthly. The only criterion for joining is that you must be over 50 years old.

"Our youngest member has just turned 50 and our oldest is a sprightly 80," Modise says.

Getting together at the Kagiso Athletics Stadium, this bunch of geriatric go-getters would send many a youngster packing from embarrassment as they vigorously go about their daily exercise regime.

It's a lovely mix of people of various backgrounds - retired nurses, cooks, housewives and even the odd teacher.

The group has recently enlisted the help of nutritional expert Maureen Lutja.

"When I first met the group they were doing a lot of physical exercise but their diet was lacking key components," Lutja says.

"An important part of beginning a healthy eating programme is to detox the body. It takes about a week to rid oneself of toxins that harm our wellbeing.

"I've educated them on the importance of eating balanced meals with a lot of fruit and lots of water. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating - and look how well they are."

Hilda Mogkhema, 74, a veteran of walking events, including the recent Sowetan Big Walk, is a firm believer in a healthy lifestyle and exercise.

"For years I worked at a butchery," Mogkhema says. "The hours were long and I was always on my feet.

"When I retired I didn't want to just sit at home and do nothing - so now I come here every morning for a workout. It is beautiful being outside early and by mid-morning we are home."

For founding member Modise a major challenge is getting more males to attend. Only four men show up regularly.

"The others come and go and seem to lack inspiration," she says. "Men take longer to understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle."

It's not all pain and no fun, though, because there is a camaraderie among the people and it's an ideal opportunity to catch up with friends and what is happening in the community.

l To view a video of the club log on to www.sowetan.co.za