The research regarding the benefits of health and fitness is undeniable. We all know the cost of unhealthy living. Older folks, including GLBT folks, didn’t grow up with health and fitness as a priority in their life, says Harry Hartigan. As a member of Prime Timers MSP for nearly two decades, Hartigan is the visionary behind Boomer Town at Pride and currently serves as Prime Timers’ outreach and education chair.
“Fitness was for the wealthy and privileged and there was not the availability of fitness centers or health and fitness information,” Hartigan says. “Today the fitness options are within reach for most people. Seniors with certain health coverage have some great fitness benefits, such as Silver Sneakers.”
Over the years, Hartigan has seen Prime Timers members struggle with health issues from high blood pressure to weight and diabetes, and from stroke and mobility issues to depression. After several members talked about how to improve health while being safe and having fun, they discovered the Mall of America opens early and welcomes walkers of all ability levels. Hartigan describes the MOA as an ideal location as it is safe (no ice, snow, extreme heat), bright, inviting, and centrally located for most folks.
“We felt it was important to have some social activities that promoted a healthy lifestyle and provided an opportunity for people to get out and about in a safe environment,” Hartigan says. “Physical activities like this are accessible to the diverse membership we have and let us have fun and socialize while getting a work out.”
This camaraderie is evident even from the group’s inception. The inter-generational organization for older gay or bisexual men (and younger adult men who admire mature men) was created by Woody Baldwin. He felt a wide gap existed in society, which caters almost exclusively to youth. Baldwin began the Boston chapter in 1987 by placing ads in local newspapers and soliciting his many friends, expecting only a small handful of men to attend the first meeting and was surprised when over 40 showed up, indicating a need for social and cultural organizations to aid and support the aging gay and bisexual men. Now Prime Timers has grown to over forty chapters worldwide, located throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
The Minneapolis chapter offers many more opportunities for members to get out and enjoy each other’s company while getting some exercise. Along with a bowling event and biking adventures, the group also has The History Boys, which finds members exploring various places of interest in the Metro area.
But, of course, many people know Prime Timers from Boomer Town. “Prime Timers MSP is proud to represent the growing population of mature gay and bisexual men and their admirers in the AARP Boomer Town area of the Twin Cities Pride Festival,” Hartigan says. “At the Prime Timers MSP booth, our members will be providing information about the group, our activities, events, and goals. We also hope to raise awareness about the community and issues facing those in the prime of their lives. And of course, our membership will be out and about enjoying this great event.”