Meet the Marion Mall Walkers
When Joyce Smith was recovering from a broken ankle in 2005, she was looking for a way to get back into walking. She wanted a place with flat surfaces and protection from the weather, somewhere with convenient bathrooms and ideally some company to walk with. So when her daughter mentioned Marion Mall Walkers, she knew that it was exactly what she was looking for.
The 89 year old is now vice president of the organisation, which has 132 paid up members ranging in age from 47 into the 90s. Every Monday, Thursday and Friday morning, 40-50 of those members gather to do strengthening and stretching exercises before walking around the mall in small groups. They’re easy to spot in the bright red shirts provided by Westfield Marion centre management, and after everyone has finished walking they gather for coffee and a chat. Joyce laughs that she doesn’t just call it a walking group - "I always say I walk and talk."
The group started in 2001 and Pauline Barber is one of the inaugural members, having filled just about every position on the committee in that time. She’s currently registrar, but says that “being on the committee was something that I was very nervous about to start with because I was still working at that time, and I’d never done much like that.” It didn’t take too long before she was volunteering for extra tasks and when she began producing the newsletter she had to learn some new skills. She laughs that “I wasn’t interested in the computer before that, but now I live on it.”
As well as the three weekly walks, the group organises social functions, excursions and guest speakers and has become an important community for members.“A lot of our people may have been on their own when they joined,” Pauline explains, “but have found such a group connection. They don't know how they'd get through the day without mall walking."
And as a bonus, regular members get a gift certificate for the value of their age to spend anywhere in Westfield Marion on each of the “big 0” birthdays. With her 90th coming up next year, there’s plenty of time for Joyce to decide how she’ll spend the next gift, but she laughs that her kids seem more excited about it than her. “It’s just another day,” she says, before adding with a grin, “I don’t think 90 is old now, anyway.” For the Marion Mall Walkers, age really is just a number.
Words by Alexis Buxton-Collins