ENID, Okla. —
Four hundred miles she’s been, three laps at a time.
And Syble Ford isn’t the only one who uses Oakwood Mall as a retail-infused refuge to exercise, protected from the heat, rain and cold weather. There likely are dozens who, just like her, take the time to walk and shop, then walk and shop some more.
Ford takes it so seriously that she walks at the mall every day. In the past two weeks, she eclipsed the 400-mark for miles walked this year alone.
“They said, ‘Whatever you’ve been doing, keep it up,’” Ford said, quoting her doctors. “I didn’t really want to hear that — because I hate to walk. But for my health, I’ll get out and do it.”
What she has learned recently, though, is that her routine is in jeopardy.
Why walking helps
The “de-malling” of Oakwood Mall still seems so distant for Ford, who claims a Missourian heritage.
“Show me they’re going to do it,” she said.
It doesn’t mean she’s without opinion on plans to turn the mall inside out, though. Vector Properties intends to demolish parts of the building, leaving free-standing structures and, possibly, some that are connected in more of an outlet mall feel.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not happy about it. I like the controlled environment of walking,” the 79-year-old Ford said.
“If I’m not walking in the mall,” she added, “I won’t be buying in the mall.”
That’s part of the allure for the older generation, and it goes side-by-side with being able to socialize with the other mall walkers. Ford calls it her “mental health day.”
Many of those exercise in the mall with help from Integris Bass Baptist Health Center’s Senior Life Network, which has an office inside Oakwood. The agency has placed distance markers throughout the mall so folks know exactly how far they’ve gone each trip. Three laps past the storefronts clock in at just under two miles.
Lynda Waldie, 73, said she doesn’t walk as often as the other seniors, but finds that it gives her a chance to chat with friends.
“That’s where you meet people, and it gives them a place to visit and drink coffee, and to watch people,” she said. “I think if they took that out, they’d have to find somewhere else to go.”
Vector Properties President Brenda Dill could not be reached for comment, despite several phone messages left at her Tulsa office over the past two weeks.