One benefit of walking is that it increases social connectivity and cultivates community well-being, and walking groups provide an outlet for people who want to improve their health while also interacting with others. Throughout the month of June, I have had the pleasure of getting to experience the benefit of walking with a group first hand by joining the Rittenhouse Jaunters on their walks around Philadelphia. The Rittenhouse Jaunters is a walking group geared towards senior residents of Philadelphia, and is lead by Pam Freyd. While most of the members are seniors, they are a very welcoming group to anyone who may be interested.
Every Tuesday at 10:30AM the Jaunters meet at the goat in Rittenhouse Park, and then walk a few miles to different destinations around the City. When I joined them I was able to see new sites, such as the dog park along the Schuylkill River Trail, the University of Pennsylvania’s Kroiz Gallery and Fairmount Water Works. Along with seeing new sites, I also got to meet great new people and get some walking in. After becoming friends with many of these walkers, a few of them agreed to sit down with me and talk about their pedestrian experiences in Philadelphia as part of this walking group.
Over lunch last week, a few of the Jaunters and I discussed how they came to join this specific walking group. One of the couples in the group who fairly recently moved to Philadelphia expressed that they joined for two main reasons. First of all, they were interested in meeting people in the City, and second of all joining a group would help motivate them to get some exercise in. Others agreed with these points, and one group member pointed out that the discipline of having this weekly commitment was definitely a positive.
Group members elaborated on how there was also the perk of being able to see new things throughout the City. Walking around Philadelphia brings new aspects of the City to life, and being able to admire the sites as a group creates a cool experience. One of the women described how this not only helps her create new friendships, but how it also helps her bond with her son. Her son once lived in Philly, and every Tuesday when they talk on the phone they will discuss the sites that were visited by the group that day. She explained how she is delighted to be discovering the same City her son discovered when he lived here by walking with the Jaunters. In general, this group allows its members to explore new things, while also encouraging them to focus on their health.
Members learn about this group through word of mouth, and many of the people at this lunch recalled either being brought to the group by others who were previously involved, or by hearing about it from friends. The success of this particular walking group is obvious, as it is nearing the end of its 2nd year of existence, and new members continue to join. If anything was made clear from my time spent with this walking group, it is that the Rittenhouse Jaunters look forward to meeting up every Tuesday because it gives them the opportunity to exercise and socialize.