Ice cleats and walking poles help people stay upright when the going is slick or uneven

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Sitka resident Florence Welsh wears ice cleats on the bottom of her XtraTufs and carries walking sticks as she heads out on a recent hike.

Our recent snow in Sitka served as a good reminder about how ice cleats and walking poles can help prevent falls when it’s icy or you’re hiking on uneven terrain.

These items are particularly helpful for elders, who might break bones if they fall. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 15 seconds an older adult (age 65 or older) is treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 29 minutes an older adult dies following a fall. There are more than 2.3 million injuries a year treated in U.S. emergency rooms that are related to falls, including more than 650,000 that require hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths.

“Falling is the leading cause of injury among older adults in the United States and may cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head injuries, and may increase the risk of early death,” said Cory Welsh, a health educator for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Injury Prevention program who focuses on preventing elder falls. Even if a person hasn’t suffered a fall, developing a fear of falling may restrict activity and decrease overall health and quality of life. Fortunately, this is a public health issue that is largely preventable.”

Every Sitka resident should have a set of ice cleats — such as YakTrax, STABILicers or Korkers — to put over their shoes when it’s icy. Since typical winter weather in Sitka means a constant rain and freeze, it can get pretty slick on the sidewalks. Most times it won’t be slick enough to need the ice cleats. But there are times when it’ll ice up and you can’t walk across the parking lot or down to the mailbox without having a pair. Don’t forget to take off your ice cleats when you get back inside, so you don’t slide on slick floors. There are a wide variety of ice cleats available, and this article will help you pick the best pair for your needs.

Sitka resident Nancy Ricketts uses walking poles to help her balance as she walks along the Sitka sidewalks.

Sitka resident Nancy Ricketts uses walking poles to help her balance as she walks along the Sitka sidewalks.

Walking poles or walking sticks, which can look like ski poles or canes, are great in all seasons. The walking poles give people a third and fourth balance point (besides their two feet), which helps stabilize their walk. Walking poles are great for people who suffer balance issues, such as those caused by vertigo or bad feet/knees/hips. They can help you when you go hiking over rough, uneven ground, and many hikers find the walking poles help them climb hills easier. They also can help a person ford streams, and they save wear and tear on the back and knees. When you’re more confident of your balance, you’re more likely to get out and walk.

“A great way to remain independent and reduce chances of falling is to exercise regularly,” Cory said. “It’s important that the type of exercise you choose focuses on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that it progressively gets more challenging over time. Walking is a great way to prevent falls and has been proven to help improve coordination and balance.”

Some people prefer two walking poles, while others prefer a single walking staff. The choice goes to personal preference and what type of terrain you’re on. Here is an article with more info about walking poles.

To learn more about preventing falls, here is a fact sheet from the National Council on Aging. The Alaska Division of Public Health also has a program to help prevent elder falls. The National Institute on Aging at NIH (National Institutes of Health) produced a Workout To Go For Alaskans (see link below) that includes simple exercises to help elders improve their strength and balance so they can stay more active. The booklet also features photos of several Southeast Alaska residents.

• Workout To Go For Alaskans (a publication of the National Institute on Aging at NIH that features several photos of Southeast Alaska residents)

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SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets April hike for the morning of April 24

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The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 9:15-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24. Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead, which for this hike will be at Mosquito Cove. Local guide Bob Purvis will show seniors around one of the most beautiful corners of Sitka on this special hike.

SAIL offers Senior Hiking Club events for those age 60 or older once a month, usually on the second or third Wednesday. There is a $5 fee, but nobody will be turned away because of finances. The hikes are open to people of all abilities and fitness levels. To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, check out our January post introducing the club.

Senior Kayak FlyerSAIL also will start its senior kayaking program in April for seniors (age 60 and older) only. The first session is from 3-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, at Swan Lake, and instruction is available for beginners. This event has an activity fee of $10, plus a transportation fee of $2 one way and $3 both ways (scholarships are available).

In addition, SAIL’s ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program, which is designed to provide outdoor opportunities to people of all ages and disability, is hosting an outdoor skills and survival class that will meet once a month from February through May. The group will meet from 3-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, March 26, April 30 and May 28 at a location TBA. There is a $10 fee for each activity.

The course will teach people basic outdoor skills and survival skills so they can be used during larger group trips later in the summer. The course is open to all ages and abilities, and the activities are meant to be all-inclusive so all can participate even if they need adaptive help.

To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club and and a variety of other outdoors skills and survival classes, contact SAIL ORCA program coordinator Nick Ponzetti at 747-6859.

SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program teams up with Sitka Public Health Nurses to host weekly walks in the park

WWwh walkThe SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program has teamed up with the Sitka Public Health Nurses to make their Wednesday noon hikes weekly at the Sitka National Historical Park.

The SEARHC WISEWOMAN program had been offering the noon walks in the park every first and third Wednesday of the month, and the new partnership will allow the program to expand to every week. The Sitka Public Health Nurses will run the other Wednesday hikes.

This free walking/hiking program is open to all Sitka women, of all ages and abilities. In addition, women can bring their Parks Prescriptions punchcards to the hikes and get them stamped. The group meets at the Sitka National Historical Park visitors center before each hike.

For more information, contact Barbara Morse with the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program at 966-8746.

Walk Sitka group to meet on Wednesday, March 20, to discuss Sitka’s walkability

Photo courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

Photo courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

Are you concerned about walking conditions in Sitka? Do you have ideas about how we can improve the local walking experience and make it safer? Then join Walk Sitka at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20, at the Swan Lake Senior Center as we meet to discuss Sitka’s walkability (note, this is an hour earlier than our normal meeting time).

Walk Sitka is a group formed after the 2012 Sitka Health Summit, when community members chose improving Sitka’s walkability as one of the three community wellness projects for 2012-13. As part of its project, Walk Sitka will apply for a national Walk Friendly Communities award using the community walkability assessment tool developed by the WFC program. Recent research has shown that walkable communities improve local health and economies.

At recent meetings Walk Sitka group members have been reviewing different parts of the WFC application, and we will be going over these sections when we meet on March 20. We also will be looking at our application plans as we aim for the May 1-June 15 application period.

For more information about the group, contact Elisabeth Crane at 747-0386 or Charles Bingham at 738-8875, or visit our new website at https://walksitka.wordpress.com/. To learn more about about the Walk Friendly Communities program, go to http://www.walkfriendly.org/.

Sitka Assembly awards contract for the construction of the Sitka Sea Walk

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One section of the Sitka Sea Walk will allow people to check out the salmon spawning by the Sitka Sound Science Center. (Artist’s concept photo by MRV Architects)

On Tuesday night, March 12, the Sitka Assembly voted 5-0 to accept a bid of $1.222, 662 from CBC Construction to start work on the Sitka Sea Walk (click here for KCAW-Raven Radio story).

The CBC Construction bid was the lowest of the two received, and it came in below the engineers’ expected $1.4 million for the project. That allowed the city to upgrade the amenities for the walking path, which will extend from Crescent Harbor to the Sitka National Historical Park. In bid includes an added alternative walkway on the breakwater next to the Sitka Sound Science Center, a sidewalk from the basketball court to the Sheldon Jackson Campus entrance, and site lighting in the conservation easement. Other added features include using yellow cedar for the boardwalk and adding drainage features for the park.

“It’s really popular for locals,” Assembly member Phyllis Hackett said during the debate on the contract. “I think this will be a great thing for visitors. They’ll be easily directed from Crescent Harbor all the way down to the national park, which I think is a great thing. But also, in addition to that, it’s going to be a great thing for residents on into the future.”

The funding for this project comes from the Commercial Passenger Excise Tax (aka, the cruise tax), which must be only used for visitor improvements. But this project is one that also benefits locals. In February coverage of the Sitka Sea Walk by KCAW-Raven Radio, reporter Ed Ronco noted that someone walking from Crescent Harbor to the Sitka National Historical Park has to cross the street twice because of where current sidewalks end. The Sitka Sea Walk will make for one continuous pathway on the ocean side of the street, making it safer for pedestrians while also offering better views of the ocean and tidelands.

During the meeting, the Assembly decided to not accept a plan to set aside $48,000 a year for maintenance and replacement costs for the Sitka Sea Walk. The Sitka Public Works Department estimates annual maintenance at just $6,000 a year, and they thought the figure was excessive. They noted that new money will become available later because of the cruise tax, though it also has to be used for other projects. The Assembly plans to look at another way to fund maintenance and replacement costs at a future meeting.

To learn more about the Sitka Sea Walk project, check out our January post about the project and our February update. The January post included links to the city’s project website, which features videos and other presentations showing how the Sitka Sea Walk will look once it’s completed.

Take a walk and check out some art during the Artigras gallery walk on March 15

ArtigrasWidebkg2Take a hike around downtown and see plenty of art as the Artigras Sitka Music and Arts Festival hosts a gallery walk on from 4-8 p.m. on Friday, March 15, in Sitka.

This year the Artigras gallery walk features at least 11 downtown galleries and businesses that will stay open later than normal to host shows by local artists and musicians. This walking and art event is one of the many Artigras happenings this month as part of the festival hosted by the Greater Sitka Arts Council.

Here is a list of some of the participating galleries and businesses (note, some have altered times):

  • Artist Cove Gallery, 241 Lincoln St., traditional and unique Alaskan art
  • Baranof Island Artists Gallery, 205 Lincoln St., grand opening/open house, featuring works by local artists Barb Bingham, Tess Giant, Janet Berlin, Stan Schoening, Pat Kehoe, Dan Evans, Kay McCarty, Melissa Harrison, Mike Wise, Tom Brown, Sandy Greba, Dixie Peterson, Lisa Teas, Julie Stroemer, Liz Faulkner, Auriella Hughes, Linda Wilson and Fairweather Design
  • Eclipse Designs, next to Wintersong Soap Co., 321 Lincoln St., locally crafted jewelry with natural stones
  • Fishermen’s Eye Gallery, 239 Lincoln St., featuring photography by James Poulson, oil paintings by Bruce Nelson and live music by Larry McCrenin
  • The Loft, 408 Oja Way, Suite A, “Interlude” artwork by Kari Johnson, Alaina Brown, Cyndy Gibson, Katie Mulligan, Larisa Manewal, Sarah Lawrie, Pamela Ash and Adam Andis, open 5-9 p.m.
  • Old Harbor Books, 201 Lincoln St., live music with Springfield & Dagger, 5:15 p.m.
  • Raindance Gallery, 205 Monastery St., local artists and carvings by Tommy Joseph
  • Silver Basin, 104 Lake St., events TBA
  • Sitka Rose Gallery, 419 Lincoln St., enjoy all the new art in the gallery
  • Waddell & Reed, 124 Lincoln St., Suite 201 (upstairs), multi-media art by Michelle Putz
  • Whitmore Hall, Sheldon Jackson Campus (located just east of Allen Hall), “The Mission” sound and images installation