After Shirley Granum had back surgery in January of 2011, she could no longer golf but still needed to get exercise. So the Santa Clara resident asked some of her friends from the Tuesday Toppers, women who golf every Tuesday morning at Pruneridge Golf Club in Santa Clara, to walk with her. Seven years later, they are still walking their way to healthier and more socially active lives.
Calling themselves “The Walking Ladies of the Mall,” the six women meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings about 9:15 a.m. at Westfield Valley Fair Mall, 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd.. They walk, each at her own pace, for about 45 minutes to an hour on the upper level.
Along their mall loops on Dec. 8, the women wave and call out greetings to friends they’ve made—three retired Santa Clara police officers and a man called Rotten Robby. Two unknown women walking dogs pass by, also a mom pushing an empty stroller with her toddler toddling behind her.
“We hear about everybody’s problems,” says Granum.
“Here comes that cute couple. They always hold hands as they walk,” says Arlene Rusche.
The Santa Clara couple, George and Tomie Tokuda, temporarily join the Walking Ladies and pose for photos with them in front of decorated holiday trees.
The first Walking Lady to call it quits, 90-year-old Clara Brock from Santa Clara, takes the escalator to the ground level and claims a table outside Starbuck’s, where they usually have coffee and decide where to have lunch. Unless, that is, they have to get to a dance class or a volunteer stint at the information desk at San Jose International Airport.
Today, five women are at the table: Granum, Rusche, Brock, Campbell resident Leona Fails and San Jose resident Grace Tsuda. Only Shelley Yu, from Saratoga, is absent. A 94-year-old walker dropped out a couple months ago. The women sing the praises of mall walking together.
“This gets me out and moving,” says Granum. “We’re like a family. We’ve become closer.”
“This IS my family,” says Brock. “This gives me exercise I normally wouldn’t get. It’s hard to walk on uneven city streets. The climate is good—you can walk even when it’s raining.”
“We don’t just walk together,” says Rusche. “We go to the movies. We’ve taken day trips to Filoli Garden and to lunch at the wharf in Santa Cruz, Shadowbrook Restaurant and San Francisco. We’ve taken overnight trips to Monterey and a B & B in Sonora. I’m the driver.”
And, of course, once the mall stores open at 10 a.m., the women can shop.
“I think the mall encourages walkers because they think we’ll stay and shop,” says Fails.
“I used to never shop here, but now I do,” says Rusche. “I over-shop.”
Sometimes the women walk at other malls—Westgate Mall or Santana Row on a nice day.
“The mall is a good place to walk. It’s safe even by yourself,” says Tsuda.
Four of the five walkers end up staying at the mall for lunch at Din Tai Fung, a popular dumpling restaurant. They plan their Christmas party at the mall Food Court. They always hand out fliers inviting other walkers and the mall administration to join them.
The mall doors open for walkers at 7 a.m. In April 2018, the mall will sponsor its 13th Senior Walk, which includes information on healthy living and raffle prizes.
“A lot of seniors have problems with isolation,” says Rusche. “We don’t know if we’d have depression if we didn’t have each other. But we have each other, and we’re not depressed. Anyone who wants to walk at the mall is welcome to join us.”