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How single Bangor-area seniors are combating isolation, inactivity

One recent morning in a sunny clearing near the start of the Orono Bog Boardwalk in the Bangor City Forest, about a dozen older men and women were working through the relaxed but disciplined motions of a simple tai chi routine. A slow punch to the front, a slow step to the side, jaw soft, eyes front. Breathe, breathe. Quiet mind. Birdsong and the scent of warm pine needles filled the air.

George Trueman, 73 of Dixmont watched the tai chi group without participating. But when

instructor Erin Coltvet of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging brought the exercise to a close, Trueman stepped forward to join the others for a guided walk along the boardwalk. It was his first visit to the popular 1-mile boardwalk, which passes through an expansive peat bog environment.

Widowed since his wife died last October, Trueman has been meeting for the past couple of months with a new Eastern Area Agency on Aging group called Active Agers. He regularly joins the group at Dysart’s Broadway Restaurant in Bangor for Saturday breakfast and for other local activities, such as a recent brown bag lunch at Bangor’s Waterfront Park and the bog boardwalk tour in the city forest.

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“It’s something to do,” he said. “I’m not one to just sit around.”

Active Agers was established to promote socialization and physical activity among Bangor-area adults age 50 and over, especially but not exclusively those without spouses or partners. The group has attracted about 20 participants so far.

“We have people whose spouses or partners are just less active than they are,” Coltvet said.

Others are caring for loved ones who are severely debilitated physically or cognitively and just need a break, she said. Some have been single for a long time and others, such as Trueman, are coping with a more recent loss.

“People tell us weekends are tough,” Coltvet said.

The agency’s first effort, to organize hobby clubs and card games, fell through when no one showed up.

“We learned people really want to get out and do something,” she said.

The bogwalk proved a good option — a level, raised walkway through the distinctive peat bog, designed to be accessible by wheelchairs, with informational markers and comfortable benches for resting.

Group activities such as this help combat isolation and depression, Colvet said, as well as promote healthy physical exercise that can help prevent falls and illness.

Watercolorist Dorothy Cook, 71, listened closely and snapped photos as guide Phyllis Leeman pointed out pitcher plants, wild cranberries and other plant species in the bog. After her husband died two years ago in Georgia, Cook said, she came back to her home state of Maine to see if she can adapt to the long winters. In addition to the Active Agers group, she has been taking a range of exercise classes at Eastern Area Agency on Aging’s Airport Mall location.

Maureen Walsh, who would not give her age, lost her husband a year and a half ago.

“I was spending too much time alone,” she said, so she started taking exercise classes and joined the Active Agers group as well. She’s not scouting for a new partner.

“I’m not looking for anybody,” Walsh said. “I’m just looking for things to do.”

There is no charge to join Active Agers, but individual activities may have some expense attached. In addition to Saturday breakfasts and other outings, the group meets monthly to plan future activities.

Coming in the fall are an evening at Penobscot Theater, a mid-autumn foliage tour and a trip to the historic Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor. In November, the group will spend a weekend at the nonprofit Sky Lodge in Jackman, which provides free North Woods accommodations and activities for senior groups.

For more information about Active Agers, call Eastern Area Agency on Aging at 941-2865.


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