John and Ann Klein at the Mall Walkers’ first meeting of the year at Smith Haven Mall. They’ve been members since 2000. VIOLA FLOWERS/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook Mall Walkers program, co-sponsored by Stony Brook University Hospital and Smith Haven Mall, relaunched on Jan. 26 with roughly 30 participants.

The free program, which is run out of the University Hospital and community relations office, offers lectures on a variety of health and wellness topics given by Stony Brook Hospital staff on the last Wednesday of each month. Members assemble in the Smith Haven Mall’s food court for a complimentary snack or coffee during the 10 a.m. lecture and then perform laps around the mall together.

Joan Dickinson, assistant vice president of community relations, sought to relaunch the Mall Walkers since the long-standing hospital program was paused last year.

“Walking in a mall is a clean and safe environment with a stable surface, which is important for seniors, especially to get their exercise in safely,” Dickinson said. “Stony Brook has a wide range of services and patient care. It’s a great place to go to get health questions answered.”

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But Dickinson didn’t get the program started again on her own. She had help from a member of the Mall Walkers, Robert Purcell, as he advocated for the return of the program. 

When the previous coordinator of the program took a leave of absence and did not return, the fate of Mall Walkers was unknown. 

Purcell, 65 of Stony Brook, noticed the impact this had on the senior community. 

“I feel bad; for most of them, this is their socialization. It’s good for them to learn and talk to each other,” Purcell said. “I didn’t do too much, just trying to help the ladies out. I got some signatures, made some calls.” 

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Long-time Stony Brook mall walkers John and Ann Klein, both 77 of Port Jefferson, have been taking part in the University’s program for decades, finding old blood pressure cards dating back to 2000. The program used to feature nurses from Stony Brook Hospital who would take participants’ blood pressures and mark them down on cards to keep track each month, they said.

“It’s nice to get useful medical information. We could always use better information, and it’s nice to be with other people and belong to a group,” John Klein said. “It’s a win-win for everyone, good for us to get healthier from the information and walking, and stores like having people around.” 

Jane Kowalski, 66 of Commack, attended Mall Walkers for the first time on Wednesday, after regularly walking at the Walt Whitman Shops in South Huntington. She, like many other seniors, enjoys mall walking in the winter months when it’s “too darn cold.” 

The lecture featured Marret Anderson, Stony Brook stroke navigator of the hospital, who delivered a presentation on strokes, the third leading cause of death in the United States. She discussed what a stroke is, the leading causes and various treatment options. 

Staff members from the hospital’s neurology department also discussed a new research study that is testing treatment options for spontaneous brain bleeds, called FASTEST. They gave pamphlets and surveys about the clinical trial to all who attended.

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Those who attended the lecture also received a Stony Brook tote bag filled with merchandise, such as antibacterial wipes and an issue of Stony Brook Magazine. 

“I’m just happy to see them back, a lot of them have nowhere to go and look forward to this at the end of their month,” Purcell said. 

Dickinson hopes to further increase attendance by advertising a complete list of speakers for the upcoming months. 

“The Mall Walkers is a longstanding tradition. We had to figure it out and get it done for them,” Dickinson said. 

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