Senior Health and Leadership in Springfield

July 29, 2019

Whether taking a vigorous chair aerobics class or walking through the Old Hill neighborhood, a group of seniors from Springfield are becoming healthier and transforming their community in the process.

The aerobics class is part of the Healthy Hill Initiative (HHI), a collaborative health and wellness initiative led by Way Finders, with partners that include the Public Health Institute of Western Mass, Baystate Health, Mercy Medical Center, Tufts Health Plan Foundation, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, five City departments, and local community based organizations. Over time, HHI has expanded its work, focusing on advocacy for improvements to neighborhood sidewalks, crosswalks and intersections, and policy and systems change to make Springfield a safer and more walkable city.

The seniors, many of whom live in the Mason Square area, have reported weight loss and increased energy. They have built new friendships, attended healthy living workshops, and are now doing advocacy work that will improve the environmental landscape of Springfield.

“Being in this class helps me meet other people and get the exercise that I need,” Springfield resident Olivia Luster said. “God has blessed me with the ability to exercise so I will do it as long as I can. I’ve also learned about things that are going on in the community.”

With the chair aerobics class, Way Finders has established new opportunities for residents to connect and get involved in community development advocacy.

Class members have participated in an Old Hill Walk Audit, attended City Council meetings, participated in a public speak-out in support of proposed resolutions for a streetlight audit in Springfield and increased funding for road improvements in Old Hill. Many participated in a Way Finders’ workshop, “Flexing Your Civic Muscle: Empowering Residents for Action,” and are now part of a Community Advocates Training Program. We are eager to continue our work with this dedicated group of senior residents in 2019!