Doing laps of a footy oval three mornings a week sounds like the training regimen of a dedicated athletics team.
At 77 years young, Agostino Forgione heads a team that is indeed dedicated, but a little out of the age range of most athletes. With the help of the council, Forgione decided to get active and start the Happy Feet Seniors Walking Group about seven years ago. Seniors meet up to three times a week for exercise, company and a cup of tea.
Meeting at 7.30am sharp every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the group walks from the Epping Memorial Hall to the nearby oval. They usually cover about seven kilometres, and accommodate everyone’s pace. “If somebody came and could only do two laps, they’re not left behind,” says member Chris Karslake. “They’re not isolated from the group. I wouldn’t want to be walking by myself in the bush!”
While the company is important, members’ overall health has also improved.Forgione mentions a fellow walker who said his temporary absence made him feel uneasy in his knees. Since returning, he feels as good as ever.
Happy Feet’s membership fluctuates. It once had 30 members and now has 12. Forgione says that for some, the exercise is too rigorous. “Some people came and then they gave up, they think it’s a bit too hard. But we need the walk.”
After about an hour’s walk, the group stop for tea, coffee and biscuits at the Epping Memorial Hall.
Karslake says Happy Feet provides the community with the opportunity to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t. “It’s vital. We’ve learned lots of different things from each other along the way.”
Save for one occasion, the group hasn’t missed a session. They walk in any weather, and over the Christmas break. “We only missed one day because it was raining too much,” laughs dedicated member Joe Bullas.
While there are other walking groups in Epping, Forgione says the Happy Feet walkers make the most of the outdoors.
“One group walks inside the shopping centre. For me it’s not the same. You haven’t got open, clean air. You’ve got to walk somewhere a bit rough.”
Details: call 9408 9046.