Active Ottumwa Podcast Episode 8
Hannah Shultz: Welcome to a Community on the Move: The Story of Active Ottumwa. Active Ottumwa is a community-based research project that encourages all adults to be more active. Ottumwa community members and the University of Iowa use the latest research to design this project. The research project for Active Ottumwa has concluded with the Active Ottumwa program continues under the leadership of HyVee of Ottumwa and with the positive support of community organizations. In this series, we’re learning from people involved in the project about what worked well, what they learned along the way, and the impact Active Ottumwa had on the community. Over the next 10 episodes, we will talk about many aspects of the Active Ottumwa project. To learn about the successes, challenges, lessons learned, pride, and humility that went into this project. My name is Hannah Schultz, and I am the host for this series, and I’m learning about this program along with you. I work at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, but I have not been affiliated with Active Ottumwa until we started planning this podcast series. Working on this series has been a joy, I’ve been impressed every step of the way by the passion, commitment, dedication and persistence of all involved in this project. And I am very excited to share this with you. One of the many reasons I’ve been impressed by this project and I’m so excited to share it with you is the active participation and inclusion of people representing many different communities, organizations, and interests in Ottumwa. The focus of Active Ottumwa was on physical activity, which came out of a community survey highlighting that this was a need for the community. The project used community resources to promote and support active living and physical activity across the community.
Today’s episode of Active Ottumwa: A Community on the Move is especially fun. Today we’re talking with community members who participated in Active Ottumwa activities. I want to give listeners a quick heads up that we had some challenges with internet connections during this recording. As a lot of us have become more accustomed to Zoom over the last year, we’ve also become more aware of how the best laid plans will go awry if your internet connection isn’t great. Please bear with us, in a couple of places we have left in some unclear pieces as they are an important part of the broader conversation. Sandy Berto is joining us again today. Sandy has been the Active Ottumwa coordinator in Ottumwa for the past few years. And we also have a few Active Ottumwa participants with us as well. I asked them each to introduce themselves, Jean Dell kicked it off.
Jean Dell: It’s probably been going on two years that I first became aware of the walking program at the mall. At least that’s primarily where we started. I think that was a really good opportunity for me to walk with other people. Otherwise, I think I probably would not have done it on a daily basis as I do now. The other program that I’ve been involved in was Tai Chi, from the Y, May Hart is just an excellent instructor for someone who has two left feet. It was a real treat to deal with somebody who’s ultra-forgiving and gives really good guidance without being intimidating. And I missed that so much, you know, because we had to stop in March. So, I’m hopeful there’s a way we can do that with social distancing and masks in the future.
Hannah Shultz: And now I turn it over to Kathy Engel.
Kathy Engel: I started participating probably about the same time as Jean. I received some emails while I was still working at Indian Hills, and I was excited to hear about it but I couldn’t really, didn’t really get involved until I was about ready to retire. And I’m strictly as a participant, I haven’t taught any classes, but I’ve tried a few different ones. I’ve tried walking at the mall, some, and then my favorite is the Tai Chi like Jean, and it was fun. You know, I really enjoyed getting together with them and learning how to do Tai Chi. And that was a lot of fun. And then also I did the yoga, did some yoga on Wednesday nights and we did the swimming. I missed the Tai Chi and getting together. But um, my husband and I have been doing a lot of walking together, so I guess that that would be one good thing that’s come out of it.
Hannah Shultz: Peggy Wixom introduces herself next.
Peggy Wixom: I really can’t remember when, how long it’s been. It’s three years, four years? I’m not sure if this year counts. It started when Lou came in to one of the places I was volunteering and was talking about water aerobics, they had basically just started up the stuff. And I convinced my husband to go, we signed up. I think we were one of the first people that Sandy signed up or first couple that Sandy signed up, and we did water aerobics, walking, and Tai Chi. And throughout the years that I ended up taking over the walking at the Bridgeview Center and taking over the water aerobics. We miss the spirit of getting together and all of us doing something together that we’re enjoying, and all either flubbing up at the same spot a Tai Chi. Oh, that’s how we were supposed to do it. I remember it was in the middle of winter and she was talking about water aerobics, and it was free trying to get the community active and I was like, swimming in winter, sounds great.
Sandy Berto: Peggy’s absolutely spot on with the timeline. I started in December of 16′ and Peggy in January of 17′ because she was the very first raffle ticket winner that I was delighted to be able to hand out the $25 HyVee gift card. And then I got to know Peggy when she would bring in sign-in sheets for the walking group and yes, I have very fond memories of the very first time I met Peggy here.
Hannah Shultz: Our last guest for today’s episode is Sylvia Hunolt.
Sylvia Hunolt: I have been with Active Ottumwa, I don’t know how many years that I’m trying to remember, probably was it five, probably from about the beginning. So I’m thinking I might have heard about it or read about it in the newspaper for the first time. I’ve been involved with quite a few of the different Active Ottumwa activities. I think the first one might have been Tai Chi and then I was, I have done yoga, I’ve done cardio power with Dana. I’ve done water aerobics. Um, walking, I walk outside, I mean sometimes besides with Active Ottumwa I walk with a friend, we would walk three to four days a week. So, I think that’s about all the activities that I might have been involved with.
Hannah Shultz: I have really enjoyed learning about this program over the previous seven episodes. And these introductions highlight how so many of the pieces came together. To kick off this conversation, I asked our guests how they initially heard about Active Ottumwa.
Kathy Engel: I heard about Active Ottumwa, I think Sandy had sent emails to Indian Hills employees, telling them about the different things. And that’s how I first heard about it. And because I was still working, it just didn’t seem to work out that I could participate too much. But then towards right before I retired, I did start going to the Tai Chi after I knew other friends who had been going, and that’s how I started.
Jean Dell: I started participating in Active Ottumwa when I was walking with a friend, and she had seen the publicity for the Tai Chi. And this was totally new to me. So it was kind of fun to start, and I think Mary Hart was instrumental in my sticking with it. It was not excessively challenging, and it was just something I looked forward to every week.
Peggy Wixom: As I said, I was at one of the places I volunteer when Lou came in and started trying to get the people that were volunteers there to come and do water aerobics for her and I was the only one who said, sure.
Hannah Shultz: All of these stories have been really fun to listen to, but I was curious what convinced our guests to join an Active Ottumwa activity the first time.
Peggy Wixom: It was kind of a nice idea to my husband and I decided to do it together. And so we looked for things that we could do together. We thought this was sounded like a great thing that you could do as a couple together. And he said it was better than sitting on the couch, stuffing his face, and watching a TV show that he’s already watched four times before.
Kathy Engel: I was encouraged to go to the Tai Chi by my friend Sylvia and I really enjoyed it. It sounds I’d like fun, I wanted to learn about it, I wanted to know what it was like. And I heard that you might get a free t shirt,
Sandy Berto: A raffle ticket, you could sign in for every activity you participated in, along with the lovely lime green t shirt, and a water bottle and a backpack, or a fanny pack. But yeah, so those were some of our incentives. But I really think it was the people who were leading the activities, who really kept everybody coming back.
Sylvia Hunolt: I think I was drawn by the fact that I was walking, and we were walking five days a week, and we wanted something different, a different type of because I know it’s healthier if you do different types of activity. So that’s where I first got started, I don’t know if it was cardio power, I needed a little more workout. And then after going and meeting some of the different instructors, and making friends, it was more as much the social aspect of it that brought me back and I encouraged other people. It was as much the exercise as the social getting to know friends, and it’s like a certain day of the week, you know, it was Saturdays were always Tai Chi and water aerobics was Wednesday, and you know, different things, different days, and you met so many nice people. And I do have to say our instructors were very encouraging, motivating, they would help with for example, with yoga, that you got the instruction of what things to be careful not to do, or what you should do. And they you know, and they were always encouraging everybody at your own level, it was like a group of people that accepted you for who you were, for just you know, just to get out there and be active. It was very motivating, in fact I really truly miss it right now, it’s especially now the time when we need, you know, people to be talking with and getting out there and outside activities. Because we’ve, several have brought up the fact is, can we have like Tai Chi outside in the park somewhere, or somehow to keep us still going to meet you know, get back with our friends and do a different type of activity. But that’s what drew me to, you know, in wanting to come back.
Hannah Shultz: You know, these guests were very loyal Active Ottumwa participants for years. So, I asked them why, what kept them coming back week after week?
Peggy Wixom: It was the camaraderie, your friends, you were feeling good about yourself too, because you could accomplish something like when water aerobics you are, oh, I can actually do something I can do now. Especially in balance issues, water is easier to learn how to work on balance issue, Tai Chi, doing some of the forms that you finally figured out after 20 times you could actually do. And this, the walking at Bridgeview, you could either walk in or you could walk the trail around, so it was very nice. You could either rearrange it to whatever if it was a nice day. And sometimes there would be people there and other times you could just walk by yourself, but it was very nice to just be able to get out and meet people you might not necessarily see in other places, but that you were able to do stuff. And as she said, nobody pushed you to do something you couldn’t do. There is this you know, don’t do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, don’t do something that might not be something you can physically do, like in water aerobics. You know, if you’re recovering from knee surgery, which we had a lot of people who would show up there for working with rehab, you know, don’t do something your doctors not telling you that you can’t do yet. And so that’s what brought it back, was the fact that it was enjoying company that my husband and I were enjoying the company of the people we’re with, learning something and enjoying each other.
Kathy Engel: One thing I, had drown me to this activity was that there was no commitment, you didn’t have to pay a large amount of money to attend a class. But yet I found myself going back and back because I really enjoyed it you know and like everybody said the instructors were wonderful, and to donate that time above what they were doing in their other parts of their life is wonderful.
Jean Dell: Yes, I’d like to add that was a significant factor for me, was the fact that there was no cost, and it was available on Saturday. So that if you know, if you had commitments as I had during the week, I made it possible to attempt. It started at 10, which would mean I didn’t have to leap out of bed and get dressed and go do something. And the fact that you got to, you know, you got to try it without putting out a pretty significant outlay of cash to participate. I’m retired, that’s kind of a, that’s relevant to those of us who are retired.
Sylvia Hunolt: I agree with what several of them said, the cost, the ability to go, you weren’t committed too. You sign up for a class, you feel you have to go it’s that pressure of that it’s like you could go one night, maybe not go the next night, the flexibility of it. The quality of our instructors, for you know really for us, I say for the low, low cost, it was you know, it was very worth a while again. Like yes, being retired you could come and go whenever you didn’t, you know, if you were gone for a month, you can come back a month later and pick up wherever you were. Didn’t we have walking with dogs? And I think that brought a different group of people. And if you didn’t have a dog, you could still walk with a group. But I think there was that also, that activity? And did they bike, was there a group that biked or not, I can’t remember?
Sandy Berto: You’re spot on Sylvia, dog walking in the cemetery actually, yes, was a perfect place for people to walk without having to worry about traffic for themselves or their dogs. We had a couple different bike groups. Of course, those were dependent upon the weather. And then also, we had dance fitness that you went to Silvia, before you fractured your ankle.
Peggy Wixom: There was also square dancing. But besides dog walking, we also have different you know, walking where you could walk in the mall, Bridgeview. But we also had, during the summer, trail walking’s too. But they would, we had younger people do that. They were in their like 19-20s, that they did like kind of like a, I guess you’d call it a pop-up walking. Because there’s different sections of trails here in Ottumwa, they chose a trail to walk and walking just doesn’t mean walk one place, there are different things of walking there.
Jean Dell: I live in the country, so the part about going into town and other folks have mentioned we’ve walked in several different parks, usually in the mall in the middle of winter. I’m sure it’s not as fun as swimming. But you know, to be able to go with your friends and walk indoors, regardless of the weather, is a is a real healthy thing in my opinion. And the other thing is that we’ve walked in several different places, different parks that are maintained by the city of which I would have been not totally unaware, but not aware that they were so stimulating when you’re walking. And I think that’s been a real advantage. For me, it’s just I mean, I’ve lived here a long time, when you’re working, you don’t have time to go play in the park. So it was it was really good to be able to go to the other publicly maintained places for exercise. That was a good thing for me.
Peggy Wixom: One of the things also, the effect is it wasn’t just for one age group, we had 18–19 year old’s, to my mother was 90 something when she was walking with us. And it did not just our local community, but I know that the younger couple, the younger people that did the trails are no longer in the Ottumwa area. But they’ve taken that love of exploring the trails to where they’re living now. And so, it has impacted farther than just the Ottumwa area, which I think is actually a goal that was something that was actually a worthwhile goal that we wanted, and I thought that was pretty good.
Sandy Berto: See that’s the part of the program that I just love, is that Sylvia said that this was our goal, the ownership of Active Ottumwa was just not the team in Iowa City or the researchers, it was truly the community. Which is exactly the way it was designed to be, I mean you know, the PRC and the community base program. We are just the finest example. I’m very biased but I think Peggy’s own words speak to that, that Active Ottumwa belonged to her and you guys too, I mean, I don’t mean you know.
Hannah Shultz: Our conversation takes a turn now to some of my favorite topics. I asked our guests what their favorite Active Ottumwa memory is.
Sylvia Hunolt: I was never a water person. So, it was after I broke my ankle, I dislocated the ligament. I decided that I kept hearing it was such good therapy. And I went and it was, I have to say it was the best thing for me. I could haven’t been limping going to Active Ottumwa I’d get out of the pool, and I could walk for a while without that limping. It stretched my ankle so much that after we no longer had water aerobics, several of us continued. We went to AmericInn and they would let you pay so much, and you could go for several hours. And we would do water aerobics together as a group because we just we missed it. And right now, that’s one thing that is so you, you got such a good workout. It was, we took what we had learned, and we went and two or three of us would go together and we would do our routine, because there would be other people in the pool and they would comment on, you know, you guys seem to have an organized activity when you’re when doing that. And there were some of them, I don’t know if we got anybody to join from there. I mean, but we just talked about it. And they were watching us with the different activities, the different exercises that we did in water aerobics, and we had so much fun. Oh, Remi, when we did water aerobics, one of our participants was in a very serious biking accident, he got hit. And I know we were drawn together as a group with Remi and watching his progress from what he went you know, from there, but what I will not forget is he always loved the song, we always sang The Bicycle Built for Two. He always did his rendition of that, it was so much fun to listen to him be involved in doing that, I’ll never forget that.
Kathy Engel: I remember one day at Tai Chi, we all got into the room. And this particular day, there were quite a few of us there. And somehow for some reason the hospital went into lockdown. And so actually, we hadn’t got in there because the door was locked to the room where we met. So, what we did was we went out into the entryway of the hospital and move the chairs and we just set up there and started doing our Tai Chi and until they were able to come down and unlock that door for us. So, I do remember that one and I remember me singing The Bicycle Built for Two, too.
Jean Dell: I don’t remember The Bicycle Built for Two, but I do remember we were going to do Tai Chi even if the door was locked to the room, that was kind of neat.
Peggy Wixom: Two memories or stories that I can think of is the water aerobics on Friday nights that we went from three different places. But one of them, Lou got a woman who was terrified of water, basically into water where she actually didn’t mind being in the water anymore during water aerobics. And another time on Friday because the Friday ones eventually settled at the Y. And a little girl decided that she would join us during water aerobics too and that was kind of cute watching her trying to do especially because there’s one that was called the mermaid and she loved mermaids and she couldn’t wait to do the march. Even though she couldn’t, was a member of the Y she wanted to go over and join us because she wanted to do the mermaid.
Hannah Shultz: A couple times in today’s conversation our guests have mentioned their husbands are friends, so I asked about who they recruited to join them at these activities.
Peggy Wixom: Well, I had my mother there, my husband, my son, my daughter, my daughter’s boyfriend. I just brought the family, and so when you’re doing and people show up, of course you talk them into in trying other things. Like oh, if you walk maybe you’ll want to do water aerobics because that is also a different way to help things, Tai Chi and things like that. So but yeah, I think I brought the whole family into it at one point or another. My mother did not like to do the water aerobics because the water was too cold for her and she is in her 90’s, but she did do the walking. And that was really quite good for her, especially after she broke her back and she was staying here with us, she went and did the walking. And that was something that they recommend and that was very big for her.
Sylvia Hunolt: I think I was always out, especially as a retiree from Indian Hills. Anybody that would retire, I’d mentioned to them about the different activities, and I think there were several from Indian Hills that did come and do the various, or friends from church or I was always out there promoting it. Because I thought it was such a good you know, I’m into the exercising and trying to get people active. And it was, I was you know, just all the time, whoever anybody would comment or ask to have you heard of Active Ottumwa? It just kept amazing me the people that have not heard of it because I thought you know, I’d seen it on the newspaper just in there you know, you’d see flyers, different places there, you know. But I was always out there recruiting because trying to get more people to join and more people to be active.
Sandy Berto: Peggy and Sylvia both made an effort, every month, when the calendar would come out to stop in the office and pick up the printed calendar. Sylvia would take to St. Mary’s, and I know that Peggy took to the library where she volunteered, and also to hospice. And you think hospice well, family members might need a real break and join in some very friendly physical activity, what couldn’t be better for somebody under that kind of stress. So that’s another way that Peggy and Sylvia supported the program. And there were a couple other people who would also do that, they weren’t quite as active within Active Ottumwa. And I think they almost came in, just just to chat for a minute, I know that’s kind of hard to believe, you know, me and chatting but I think they did. And then also just to be reminded that we’re not looking to make people into Michael Phelps or track stars, or anything like that, that to just come and be accepted as who you are.
Hannah Shultz: Keeping in mind that one goal from this series is to help other communities implement similar programs, I asked our guests what challenges they learned from and what advice they would give to other communities.
Peggy Wixom: A challenge I think that Sandy probably had was, she would, because all the PALs are volunteers. And she might have something going and that volunteer just would sit there after doing it for a while go, I can’t do this anymore, for some reason or another and trying to find people that would be willing to take over a spot. I think that was a challenge that Sandy had. So you might have, like bicycling that was going really, really well and then for some reason, the person who was leading that would have to stop. And she somehow managed to find challenges because let’s face it, can we say no to Sandy? I think that was a challenge, that they are volunteers and that they can’t always do it for long periods of time for one reason or another.
Sandy Berto: Well, I think you bring up a good point, Peggy, that there were times when people couldn’t continue with an activity. But also, you and Sylvia and Kathy are all very good examples of when those challenges were mostly for me. Sylvia stepped up and did the water walking, and you stepped up and did the water walking and the other walking groups. I can also think of Twila who actually hated water, and she would even sign people in to make sure that the activity went on. And I guess I noticed you did as well. I can ask somebody and if they absolutely can’t or just really don’t want to that’s fine, but surprisingly, I had more people say yes. And again, I don’t think it’s me necessarily, I think it was just the ownership in the program that people saw what good It brought to the Ottumwa community. I really just think it’s the PALs and the participants, you know I was just kind of a pack herder.
Kathy Engel: I would like to just share the I’m ready for this year to be over and when we can get back together. I look forward to it, I miss seeing my friends and working out like all of us do, I guess.
Hannah Shultz: Thank you for joining another episode of Active Ottumwa: A Community on the Move. Thank you, Kathy, Jean, Sylvia, and Peggy, for spending some time with us and sharing your Active Ottumwa story. Thank you for tuning in, thanks to the Midwestern Public Health Training Center for production support, the team at the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, the Ottumwa community, and the many guests and contributors we talk with throughout these 10 episodes. See the podcast notes for more information about Active Ottumwa and to connect with our team.
This podcast is a product of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center, supported by cooperative agreement number of U48DP006389 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this podcast are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.