NEWS Local SilverSneakers Program Helps Seniors Stay Active, Stay Healthy

Local SilverSneakers Program Helps Seniors Stay Active, Stay Healthy

For many people, basic everyday movements are automatic. The muscles you use to fasten your seatbelt, lift groceries, or push a vacuum cleaner are usually actions you didn’t need to think about too much when you were younger.

“It may seem simple, but there are a lot of muscles involved in doing something as simple as reaching to grab a plate from the cupboard, or bending over to empty the dishwasher…a lot is involved, your core, your legs, All of this,” said Carrie Marquardt, director of wellness at the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA and Crossfit Meriden

However, as they age, they begin to lose these motor skills. So local fitness and senior centers partnered with SilverSneakers, a fitness and wellness program for adults over 65 that focuses on daily movement as a way to socialize and have fun while maintaining skills and preventing other health issues. a method.

health and fitness

SilverSneakers is one of the first national programs designed for active seniors that combines fitness and wellness by providing free full gym memberships and online resources. The plan is a brand of Tivity Health and is available through several insurance companies, including Anthem, Aetna, ConnectiCare and Medicare.

Since its founding in 1992, SilverSneakers’ business has grown exponentially, according to its website.

During its first four years, its founder, Mary Swanson, developed and taught a chair-based workout called the SilverSneakers Classic at 15 locations in Arizona. SilverSneakers are now available at 22,000 fitness centers in all 50 states. In addition, it has developed many spin-off courses such as SilverSneakers Yoga and SilverSneakers Circuit.

According to Tivity Health, SilverSneakers has 2 million accounts in 2020 and more than 18 million adults age 65 and older are eligible for the program through their Medicare plans.

Connecticut is home to 32 certified fitness centers, community centers and parks that offer SilverSneakers classes.

Beginning in 2023, SilverSneakers will be the only premium fitness program offered through Apple Fitness+.

Marquardt explained that SilverSneakers are subsidized by insurance companies. Members then gain access to all certified fitness locations and online resources such as live and on-demand workout videos, workshops and the SilverSneakers GO mobile app.

She added that a SilverSneakers membership is equivalent to a gym membership. At Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA, program members have access to all of its facilities, services and classes, such as yoga, water classes and aerobics.

“Just because you’re a SilverSneakers member doesn’t mean you have to go to a SilverSneakers class,” says Marquardt. “It just means you can be part of the facility that’s part of SilverSneakers.”

daily exercise class

Erin Ambler, program coordinator at the Wallingford Senior Center and liaison for SilverSneakers, explains that the in-person classes focus on balancing and strengthening muscles needed for everyday life.

Actions like getting up from a chair and wearing a seat belt require more movement than people realize, and focusing on these muscle groups can serve as preventative care. For example, Ambler says some classes teach the best ways to recover from falls to avoid what she calls “chronic lies.”

“We always focus on those [movements] This allows people to improve their daily behaviors — pick up the laundry basket, get in the car, get out of the car, put on the seatbelt,” she said. “These motor skills need to be practiced over and over again, so the body adapts them examine. ”

Fitness classes vary in difficulty and intensity to accommodate all ranges of motion. Plus, all moves and workouts can be easily modified by the trainer, Ambler said.

By offering a variety of modified classes, older adults feel more comfortable exercising to keep essential muscles healthy, she adds.

National coach Dina Sexton explained that all coaches are certified by SilverSneakers through their educational programs. They are educated based on working with older, active adults, then trained in specialized courses and recertified every two years.

Sexton said recertification ensures that all coaches are aware of the latest research on advanced physical activity and is an opportunity to brainstorm new choreography or workout circuits.

“Whether you’re senior or not, sometimes starting a new fitness program can feel a little intimidating if fitness is new to you. It’s something new,” she says. “The trainers at SilverSneakers know and understand that. So, if you go to live classes, you’re welcome… Maybe that takes away some of the hesitation they might have.”

Most fitness facilities offer one or more SilverSneakers classes. For example, according to the SilverSneakers central database, the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA offers five courses, while the Southington-Cheshire YMCA offers three courses.

Likewise, the Wallingford Senior Center offers the classic SilverSneakers Enerchi and online courses, Ambler said.

However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, Sexton explained that SilverSneakers has undergone some of the most significant changes she has seen in the program’s 10 years. Due to social distancing and isolation, all classes have moved online. Teachers rely on numerous streaming services to deliver their classes.

According to its website, SilverSneakers offers more than 100 online courses and hosts many workshops and workouts.

While in-person classes can now be offered, SilverSneakers will continue to offer virtual classes, Sexton said.

Since August 2022, SilverSneakers holds the Guinness World Record for the Most Viewed Facebook Live Dance Workout Class with over 3,000 viewers during a 30-minute workout, beating the previous record of 1,500.

“It’s been amazing to see seniors using technology in a way they haven’t before and really embracing it, so SilverSneakers Live is still going strong today,” Sexton said.


Physical activity is a proactive strategy to avoid future health complications, Marquardt said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults 65 and older get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week and include muscle-strengthening and balancing activities on at least two days.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, physical activity can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer, blood lipids, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, regular exercise can help improve quality of life by reducing anxiety and depression, improving sleep and physical function, and maintaining a healthy weight. Additionally, for older adults, physical activity can reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.

A 2021 study by Avalere Health found that SilverSneakers Medicare customers saw an average 16% reduction in health care costs compared to non-plan recipients.

Additionally, inpatient costs fell 26% among SilverSneaker members, noting that members use outpatient services at a higher rate than nonmembers, indicating better health management.

“[The program] Incentivize seniors not only to be healthy, but to be healthy so that things don’t happen,” Marquardt said.

She added that many YMCA SilverSneakers clients often leave feeling refreshed and energized. Many people plan to eat lunch or run errands after their workouts.

After one class a day, Marquardt “jokingly asked a gentleman [participants], ‘Hey, how are you feeling? do you feel young He said, ‘I still feel old, but I feel really good. ‘”

Kristin Champagne, director of membership and wellness at the Cheshire Community YMCA, explained that some daily exercise can help with mental function, as many older adults need to think about movement and translate it into action.

“do those things [the seniors] One has to consider, like movement patterns, that they are not used to…have been shown to help cognitive function and maintain cognitive function. This can be very useful for those who have already been diagnosed with memory or cognitive decline,” she said.

fight loneliness

Another major draw of SilverSneakers group classes, Champagne says, is the social time.

The Cheshire-Southington YMCA has hundreds of SilverSneakers members, with classes of 25-30 participants. She added that most of them are very social and use the class as an opportunity to work out with friends and then have lunch.

“They held each other accountable for coming to class. If someone didn’t come to class, they would call each other,” she said. “They come at the same time, they’re looking for each other. So, it’s essentially a social network.”

Meanwhile, Sexton says she can’t count the number of post-SilverSneakers sports dinners she’s attended as a coach over the past 10 years.

Taking regular classes helps build confidence and gives clients something to look forward to in their schedule, she says. They also often celebrate small victories, like a good doctor’s appointment or a long walk with the grandkids.

“Increasing regular exercise can improve daily life. It can improve daily function. It can help older adults live with confidence. It can help reduce pain and feel independent in their lives. It’s something they enjoy,” Sexton said. “So I think it’s really important to have that as an option and something that participants can enjoy.

To learn more about your eligibility, please visit SilverSneakers’ website.


Health Equity reporter Cris Villalonga-Vivoni is a corps member of Report for America, a national service project that places reporters in local newsrooms.Support Record-Journal’s RFA reporters with a donation To learn more about RFA, visit

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