Staying physically and mentally healthy has always been the key to not feeling the negative effects of age. Luckily, for many seniors, the SilverSneakers fitness program is available through many insurance programs, including some Medicare Part C plans.
Fred Pilgrim of Warren has been in the SilverSneakers program for six months.
"When I first started here, I wanted to lose weight," Pilgrim said. "The doctor told me that I had to get on an exercise program. Before, I had back and leg problems, but the exercises in this program have eliminated those problems to zero."
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
Fred Pilgrim of Warren works out at St. Joe’s at the Mall. Pilgrim has been participating in the SilverSneakers program for six months.
Pilgrim exercises at St. Joe's at the Mall and the YMCA. He said he has been going to St. Joe's at the Mall for four months and has felt physically better ever since.
Lana Eddy-Campfield, physiologist at St. Joe's at the Mall, said that the SilverSneakers fitness program provides a healthy regimen for seniors.
"It keeps seniors moving and not sedentary," she said. "When they move, their joints ache less and don't freeze up. We provide exercises that help seniors keep their muscles toned and strong and reduces the pain of arthritis. Our program helps seniors to increase their balance so they are less likely to break bones."
With gym memberships, individuals have to pay to keep their yearly membership. Shirley Lisk, manager at St. Joe's at the Mall, said that with the SilverSneakers fitness program, the insurance company takes care of a senior's fitness club membership.
"With the SilverSneakers program, seniors can access any fitness facility in the United States that is a designated SilverSneakers site," Lisk said. "Once seniors know they have SilverSneakers in their insurance plan, they could see what sites are available in their area."
Chris Wetzl, a regional account manager for the SilverSneakers fitness program in Ohio, said that the program is available at no additional cost to more than 3 million seniors across the country who are Medicare-eligible through select health plans.
"Once enrolled in the program, members can use any of the over 10,000 locations in the network," he said. "Members are provided access to amenities, equipment and group exercise classes, in particular, our signature group exercise classes. These classes are designed to improve strength, balance, flexibility and endurance."
Wetzl said that the SilverSneakers fitness program is a beneficial starting point for older adults who are new to exercising. It's also an excellent avenue for seniors to reacquaint themselves with an exercise regimen, he said.
For Pilgrim, it's been a healthy journey, and this healthy journey continues.
"Once I get started with this program, it makes me feel good, and that is what motivates me," he said. "The SilverSneakers program is great because whenever I travel, there is always a YMCA that I could exercise at."
"I have been teaching therapeutic exercises for years and I never thought I would see a time where insurance will pay for being proactive with your exercising and health," Eddy-Campfield said. "A lot of people don't realize that they have SilverSneakers included in their insurance plans. I've had clients who were amazed when they found out that they qualified. Everyone should check to make sure they have it during their retirement."
Pilgrim said that the SilverSneakers program is very motivating because he has more strength to accomplish activities.
"It changed my lifestyle and the exercises keep me busy," he said. "I have more energy now than I did before. When I do work around the house, I am not as out of breath. Before, when I mowed the lawn, I used to do one part on one day and the other part the next day. Now, I could mow my entire yard all in one day with no problem."
Wetzl said that by being involved in the SilverSneakers fitness program, seniors can regain the strength that they may have lost throughout the years.
"I met a program member who had been participating in the SilverSneakers program for two years," he said. "He told me how he was an avid outdoorsman in the past, but had to give it up due to health issues connected with his weight.
''He continued to explain how he had been actively using his SilverSneakers membership and working out at a local fitness center. His health had changed dramatically for the positive. He said that for the first time in five years, he was going hunting and would take his grandson on his first hunting trip. Here is somebody who is re-engaged in activity that they thought they would never do again."
Lisk agreed. "With the SilverSneakers program, you are not getting older, you are getting better," she said.