Staying fit for a lifetime

By Ryan Lucas

Louise Meals has been a member of the SilverSneakers senior fitness program at the Harper J. Ransburg YMCA in Indianapolis, both as an instructor and a participant, for the past 10 years. Meals, 76, credits the program for keeping her fit and doesn’t know how she would do so without the program. 

“I don’t think I would be as active,” she says. “It kind of makes you want to get up and go.”

SilverSneakers is a free fitness program for people 55 and older and comes with qualifying Medicare plans and offers a variety of different classes at locations nationwide. Offerings include yoga, CardioFit and even shallow-water splash, which all focus on helping seniors keep active and stay strong. 

SilverSneakers offers classes at 414 locations across the state for over 471,000 eligible Hoosier seniors. Classes are offered at gyms including Anytime Fitness, Eastlake Athletic Clubs, Planet Fitness and YMCAs. 

The classes are promoted online at the SilverSneakers website and on social media via Facebook, and SilverSneakers also works with insurance companies to encourage participation.

The program is paired with many different health insurance plans such as Anthem, Aetna and Humana. SilverSneakers works with these companies in order to promote its programs to seniors in Indiana. 

Anthem offers SilverSneakers with all of its Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. The company provides materials to consumers that are eligible for SilverSneakers when they enroll in a qualifying health plan.

“Exercise has so many mental and physical benefits,” says Sims Corbett, senior learning designer at Tivity Health, the company that offers SilverSneakers. “Not only can it help you lose or maintain weight, build muscle and increase energy, it can also help improve agility, motor skills, mobility and balance, helping people maintain their independence as they age.”

Despite the efforts of some companies to promote SilverSneakers, Meals says she wishes more health plans offered the program. 

“I wish that all of the insurance programs offered it because it’s part of health as well as going to the doctor’s office and watching your blood pressure,” Meals says. “Exercise is as much a part of your health program as anything else, so all insurance companies ought to provide it.” 

SilverSneakers not only helps seniors stay active physically but also helps them branch out socially. According to the SilverSneakers Annual Participant Survey, more than 58 percent of active members say they have friends in the program or have made new friends as a result of their participation. 

“You become more than just an exercise class,” Meals says. “Twice to three times a year we’ll go out to a brunch after class, everybody goes out together and we’ll find that if somebody has a birthday of if somebody falls and gets hurt, we’ll send a card, and everybody will sign the card. It’s a good friendship for people this age.” I