A casual stroll in the park certainly has its benefits but our New Yorker of the Week is helping seniors become robust ramblers. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
Even though he grew up on the concrete sidewalks of Brooklyn, Monte Olenick always found time for nature.
"The park is really a tremendous relief from noise, crowds, the traffic of the city," he says. "As a child, I grew up in Brooklyn and used to go through Prospect Park all the time."
Today, eight decades later, Monte's using his passion for city parks to help seniors stay active, physically and socially.
"I retired in 1996 and I had been walking the streets looking for things to do because I had so much free time," he said. "When you stop working, you don't realize the social life you had at work. But it was there. Some people try to replace it in simple ways and this is how to do it. It's another way of keeping in contact with people and being aware of the world and what's going on."
Twice a week, rain or shine, he leads a group of seniors on walks around Central Park as a volunteer with the New York Road Runners.
"I'm just exhilarated. I'm not tired, just exhilarated," says walker Gloria Harper. "He's gotten me to love walking and the park, parts of the park I never would have seen without him."
"When I first started, I was about three-quarters of the way [and] I wanted to leave," says walker Dorothy Dollivar. "But as I've come for the last eight years, it's nothing now to walk the three miles and I feel fabulous the next day. And I have so much energy and everyone is astounded that I don't have to take any medication at my age."
Miles in the park go a long way to challenge stereotypes about seniors.
"I think it just stands in the face of the stigma," says Philip Santora of the New York Road Runners. "Who are senior citizens? Seniors are fit and robust and focused and committed and ambitious."
"A friend of mine said, 'When you reach 80, it's all downhill,' and I thought about that," Olenick says. "I think it gives them more energy. Doesn't tire me out at all. I feel energized after."
So, for showing his fellow seniors it's not all downhill in the park, Monte Olenick is the latest New Yorker of the week.
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