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Walking at Ft. Hill Gets New Retiree on Track for a Healthy Lifestyle

Newly retired at age 82, Naperville resident Betty Samuel found Fort Hill Activity Center just in time to start a new fitness routine and a new life. “Fort Hill was made for me!” exclaimed Betty in our first telephone conversation. 

Betty Samuel on the track at Fort Hill Activity Center

My first question to Betty was about her long tenure at her job, as only about 6% of Americans are still working in their 80s, according to a study of retirement patterns across the country.

She explained that she had worked in an import company in Oak Brook at a job that she enjoyed. “It’s a wonderful company. They told me I could stay as long as I wanted.  I worked there for 30 years, and then it was just time to quit!”

Her retirement began just as Fort Hill Activity Center opened.

Fort Hill Activity Center

Living only 5 minutes away, she had passed the facility many times along Fort Hill Drive while it was under construction. “A week before Fort Hill opened, I had just retired and had a checkup with my doctor, who wanted to prescribe cholesterol medication,” said Betty.   “As an alternative to the medication, I had the option to start exercising and eat more nutritious foods. That same week I received a brochure in the mail from the Park District announcing the opening of Fort Hill Activity Center. So I came in on August 27, early in the morning, the day of the grand opening, ready to walk.  I signed up right away and have been walking regularly in the morning beginning at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m.”  

Track at Fort Hill Activity Center

When asking Betty about what she enjoys about walking at Fort Hill Activity Center, she immediately mentioned the friendly front-desk staff.

“I love the people that work at the Fort Hill front desk,” said Betty. “They are warm and friendly and always happy to see me. They go out of their way to greet me and everyone who walks through the door and they wish them a good day as they leave. You don’t find that everywhere.”

Laura Chavez and Monica Bruzan serve as early morning front desk staff at Fort Hill Activity Center.
"Betty makes their day brighter with her great attitude and fun spirit," said Community Relations Manager Debbie Kretzmann.

Although there are not many people at the track when Betty is there, she enjoys the solitude and the freedom to do some arm stretches, swing her arms and walk at her own pace. “I was used to getting up early for my job, where my hours were from 5:00-11:00 a.m.  Morning is the best time of day for me to exercise.”

Once Betty started walking at Fort Hill Activity Center, she discovered some of the other activities offered there and registered for a Tai Chi class. “I knew that I needed help with balance, and the Tai Chi also helps with posture,” Betty explained. “We have a wonderful teacher.  At first it was hard to move both my hands and feet at the same time, but he encouraged us to just keep coming to class and that we would improve with practice.” 

One of the Tai Chi classes that meets at the Fort Hill Activity Center

Transitioning to retirement can be challenging. “I knew I would have to fill a gap in my life after I stopped working,” Betty reflected. She is involved at her church and spends time with family, yet she knew she needed some structure in her day. “Walking in the morning is the perfect way to start my day. And I’m feeling better and stronger now that I walk regularly,” she added. 

Resources for Retirees and Seniors at Naperville Park District

Looking for ways to connect with others and boost your health during retirement? Here are 5 ideas to get you started.

1.Check the Active Adults & Seniors section of the Autumn Program Guide or the Senior Program Guide for free, drop-in programs at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center (ARRCC)

Friends enjoy a weekly game of pool at the ARRCC.

2.Check to see if you are eligible for a Silver Sneakers fitness membership at Fort Hill Activity Center

3.Purchase a senior membership at Fort Hill Activity Center if you are 60 years of age or older

4.Register for most adult classes at the Naperville Park District at the discounted senior rate of 20% off.

The Pickleball Basics class meets at Fort Hill Activity Center

5.Check out the volunteer opportunities at the Park District, such as serving as a receptionist at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center, leading one of the drop-in programs, photography, and much more.

Volunteer Gary Ernst assists NPD staff member Kathy at the ARRCC reception desk

Stop in and explore all that there is to offer at Fort Hill Activity Center and Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center.  The front desk staff will welcome you warmly and help you get connected with people and programs that will enrich your life.

Front desk staff Kathy, Jacque and Jackie

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