Senator Chuck Wiger: Be Active and Happier
Legislators discuss many issues impacting your quality of life. Schools, health care, jobs, our environment, public safety and more are debated. These issues impact your happiness to varying degrees.
How are you feeling? Hopefully, doing well, but many people may be feeling lonely, especially during the holiday season euphoria. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please get help.
The United Way of the Twin Cities offers free and confidential health and human services advice in all languages by calling 651-291-0211.
Government, organizations and churches provide many programs to encourage people to be active. Funding community education and other wellness programs pays off in terms of reduced health care costs and increased tax-paying productivity.
A Pew survey concludes that persistent loneliness and feeling blue reduces average longevity and contributes to obesity and problems with alcohol. It also contributes to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Staying active helps your mind as well as your body.
Here are some ideas about doing things that all ages can enjoy:
- Creating. Famed artist Georgia O’Keefe painted, drew and sculpted into her 96th year. The White Bear Center for the Arts offers classes in everything from painting and drawing to cooking and writing. Check it out online at www.WhiteBearArts.org or call 651-407-0597. Or, contact your local public schools’ community education programs at:
- Swimming. Water aerobics is great for exercising and socializing. The YMCA operates a very nice pool at the Maplewood Community Center, and the Aquatic Center at the YMCA in White Bear Lake is also beautiful. Many classes for all abilities are offered. Check it out at ymcamn.org/maplewood.or ymca.org/locations/white_bear_area_ymca/swim_lessons.
- Restoration. Bringing an old vehicle, piece of furniture or boat to life again involves creativity that is great for mind and body. Sometimes these projects involve friends and family, crossing generations and turning into team efforts. Bringing objects into a productive state can be satisfying.
- Stretching, Yoga and Pilates. Improving flexibility and learning to bring more oxygen into your body contributes to good health. Yoga is gaining popularity with seniors because it extends the spine and improves blood flow to the brain and heart. Pilates is similar to yoga and over time it can help decrease aches and pains. Pilates workouts are widely available on DVDs that you can find at the library, and classes are available through health clubs and community centers. Stretching exercises combine with meditation is the foundation of Chinese health.
- Travel. You can develop your interest in other places with armchair travel, and the library is a good resource. Or, if you have the financial resources, plan trips with family or friends. Senior-specific trips for the over-50 sector are popular with the travel industry. Finding senior travel discounts or special packages can be a computer click away. Just google Elder Treks: Small Group Adventures for Travelers 50 Plus.
- Walking. Walking is an extremely healthful activity. One of my favorite places to walk is on the trail in the beautiful nature area behind the Maplewood Library. I also enjoy the Oakdale Nature Preserve, Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake and the trail around Lake Phalen. (Have you see the beautiful new Chinese pavilion on the west side of the lake near the picnic area?) Oakdale Wellness 50+ has a walking group that you might enjoy joining. Free programs led by the Vital Aging Network are offered every month at the Oakdale Discovery Center, 4444 Hadley Ave. N., Oakdale. You can call (651) 747-3860 for more information.
- Dog Parks. Having a dog tends to open up lines of communication with others. Many friendly dog walkers enjoy the Oakdale Nature Preserve trails every day. There also are three dog parks in the area – the Battle Creek Regional Trail in Maplewood, Bald Eagle-Otter lake Regional Park in White Bear Township and Woodview Open Space in Roseville.
- Serving others. The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale Rotary and the White Bear Lake Area Rotary are clubs that serve people locally and globally. Both clubs have weekly meetings where you will find warm, friendly people who want to do things for the community. Joining these clubs is also a great way to make lifelong friends. One example of a community project by the North St. Paul club is the program to distribute dictionaries to every third grader in every school in District 622. Rotarians go to the schools to give out the dictionaries. It is a great inter-generational activity. When is the last time you met with a bunch of smiling third graders?
- Faith communities. Our area churches are great places to connect with others and make friends. Many churches such as St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake have social justice committees that focus on issues such as expanding affordable housing.
We are blessed with many resources in our community that can diminish loneliness and promote joy. One final resource is Active Living Ramsey County, a broad network of volunteers, entrepreneurs and government officials. The coalition’s mission is to create and promote environments that make it safe and convenient for people to be active in their daily lives. You can connect with this group at https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/parks-recreation/active-living.
Be well and feel free to reach out to me. You can contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you would like me to stop by your home or apartment. I can be reached by email at email@example.com, and by phone at 651-296-6820. My cell is 651-770-0283.
This column was first published in the White Bear Press.