Dr. Rita Losee, a resident of Brunswick and West Bath and 1960 Morse High graduate, plans to hike 272 in Maine next month to raise awareness about living a health life long into one’s golden years. Courtesy Rita Losee

BATH — Dr. Rita Losee, 78, fully planned next month to hike the 272-mile Long Trail in Vermont to demonstrate that although the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs yet of slowing down, neither do she and her fellow seniors.

Concerns about travel changed the 1960 Morse High graduate’s mind about trekking two states over, but Losee still plans to log the full 272 miles in August, only in Maine. Long Trail can wait until next year, said Losee, who lives in West Bath in the summer in her RV and spends winters in Brunswick.

Her “Hike for Health” will start in Gorham, and lead through “trail towns” such as Oquossoc in Franklin County and Monson in Piscataquis County, she said. She plans to share photos and videos of her journey on Facebook and Instagram, and to return to West Bath by late August or early September.

Losee in 2018 authored “Soaring Seniors: Stories, Steps and Strategies for Living Full-out After Fifty, Sixty, Seventy… .” It’s a mantra she thrives by, particularly given the constant message in current times that older people are especially at risk during the pandemic.

“I want to inspire people enough so that they actually take action, and make the changes that will help them – whether they’re 30, 40, 50 or 60 – get to be soaring seniors,” the registered nurse said. She aims to inspire people of all ages to take action now to build or preserve their health in order to live life to its fullest in their golden years.

Losee has practiced what she preaches. An athlete since her time at Morse, she has participated in the Hawaii Ironman race, climbed to the summit of nearly 20,000-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro, and in 2000 hiked the entire 2,167-mile Appalachian Trail on her own.

More than 100 miles of the Appalachian interconnects with the Long Trail, which Losee had been inspired this Mother’s Day to hike, “as a statement of, ‘hey, look guys. You don’t have to be at such high risk for what’s going down right now. You can be vibrantly alive, and healthy and active.'”

Sporting the backpack she would have carried on the Long Trail, Losee looks to raise $1,000 per mile for Univera ServeFirst, a nonprofit organization that provides vitamins and nutrients for children in need around the world. That way, those children “don’t have diseases of old age,” Losee said. “That’s what we’ve created in our kids, in this country.”

Losee mentioned diabetes as one example. Approximately 210,000 Americans younger than 20, about 0.25% of the population, are estimated to have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to diabetes.org. The website reports that 34.2 million Americans, 10.5% of the population, had diabetes in 2018.

Through her walk, Losee said she plans to demonstrate that “you can be in your late 70s and be vigorously healthy.”

A woman who “absolutely loves being outdoors,” she hopes to demonstrate that passion to her fellow Mainers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans on average spend about 90% of the time inside. But “we’re a species that’s lived outdoors for 200,000 years,” Losee said.

Anne Moreau, a nurse nutritionist and colleague of Losee’s through Univera, applauded her friend’s planned effort. “The message that we’re getting as we’re aging is that we’re supposed to get sick with age,” Moreau said. “You go to a doctor’s office, and your doctor says to you, ‘well, you’re getting older; what do you expect?'”

Losee’s more optimistic message about thriving as one ages is a powerful one that “needs to get out there,” Moreau said. “People need to hear that they have a lot more control over their health than they think.”

Losee is giving herself a month to complete the walk. She can’t predict where or when she will reach a particular location, she said: “Rather like life, this adventure will unfold as I go along.”

She had started the Appalachian at 5 miles daily, and as she acclimated to the trail she said she was “whacking the miles off at 20 a day.”

Wondering whether she will reach that pace in Maine, she said, “I don’t know. It’ll be fun to try, though, won’t it?”

“The process will be the thing,” Losee added. “You walk, you drink, you eat.”

To learn more about her hike, or contribute to her cause, Losee can be reached at 837-8865 or [email protected].

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