In fact, your doctors will likely encourage you to be more active, because exercise and healthy eating can help as part of the treatment plans for many of the most common conditions found in elderly people.
SilverSneakers does not sell sneakers, nor does it provide you with sneakers to use.
These conditions include:
- Cardiovascular disease: A 2009 study stated that both genders can lower the risk for cardiovascular disease “by engaging in regular physical activity.”
- Diabetes: The American Heart Association says physical activity “helps lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides,” which are all contributing factors to diabetes.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Working out can help improve range of motion and increase strength in the bones affected by this autoimmune disease.
- Osteoporosis: Weight lifting, cardio, and yoga can help build strong bones and improve posture and balance, which can then help prevent breaks and emergency room visits from falls.
- Depression: While physical activity isn’t a cure for depression, it can certainly help by encouraging socialization, which can then improve overall mental health.
- Obesity: Being physically active can help you burn more energy than you consume, which helps to fight obesity.
As a way of encouraging physical activity in the elderly, the program called SilverSneakers was created in the early 1990s. We’ll now discuss this free program and its benefits in addition to how you can qualify and enroll in it.
What Is SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is a fitness program that focuses on getting elderly people out of their homes and into the gym and their community in order to improve “overall well-being, strength and social aspects” in seniors. (Note: SilverSneakers does not sell sneakers, nor does it provide you with sneakers to use.)
SilverSneakers is a fitness program that focuses on getting elderly people out of their homes and into the gym and their community.
The program was started in the early 1990s by Mary Swanson, who dedicated her career and life to help elderly people address their health and get in shape. Now, millions of seniors are enrolled in her program.
By enrolling in SilverSneakers, you get free access to the following:
- More than 15,000 gym locations across the country
- All the equipment in the gym
- Amenities like pools and courts at the center
- More than 70 styles of classes offered by SilverSneakers with certified instructors
- Online resources that include diet and fitness tips
In addition to fitness, SilverSneakers prides itself on creating a social environment for elderly people. According to a a member survey, 88 percent felt they have a “better quality of life” since joining, more than 90 percent said their health was “good, very good, or excellent” at the time of the survey, and 75 percent said they’ve made friends because of the program.
SilverSneakers offers classes involving a range of amenities and activities with the goal of getting the elderly physically and mentally engaged. These classes include the following:
According to a a member survey, 88 percent felt they have a “better quality of life” since joining, more than 90 percent said their health was “good, very good, or excellent”
- The Classic: This class aims to help elderly people with routine activities of daily living, like getting in and out of chairs, and overall range of movement. It’s a low-intensity class.
- Circuit: The circuit class focuses on elderly people building upper body strength with weights and elastic bands. While the class is largely done standing up the whole time, chairs are available for support. This is a medium-intensity class.
- CardioFit: This is like an aerobics class for the elderly, and it focuses on intense cardio workouts for about an hour. The class also works on building upper body and core strength.
- Yoga: This is a beginner’s level yoga class centered on standing and seated poses becoming the core of the class’s workouts. This helps with your range of motion, stability, and balance. It’s a lower intensity class, but you’ll still break a sweat.
- Splash: You’ll head to the water in this aerobics class. Done in shallow water so people who can’t swim can take part in it, the splash class features cardio and light weightlifting exercises. The water can help take pressure off joints when maneuvering your legs, which can help build overall range of motion.
- Stability: This class focuses on improving the skill in its name—stability. The class features workouts meant to build strength around knee and hip joints, arms, ankles, and your core, all of which help with your stability. This is a lower intensity workout with many of the workouts being completed on or near a chair.
All of these classes last about 45 minutes to an hour.
SilverSneakers also has a round of classes called BOOM that focus on improving “strength, flexibility and endurance in convenient 30-minute workouts.” While they’re shorter classes, they’re high intensity and are meant to get a lot of muscle-building and cardio done in a short amount of time.
There are three options for BOOM classes available:
- Move It: This high-energy dance class focuses on your conditioning, so you’ll definitely break a sweat during this one.
- Muscle: This class centers on building strength and toning muscles. You’ll use free weights and cardio activities across different workouts focused on different muscle groups.
- Mind: This is a combination of yoga and Pilates that helps relax the mind and build core muscle, balance, and overall strength at the same time.
The last type of class SilverSneakers offers is called a FLEX course. In these classes, you get out of the gym and head out into the community to perform your workouts and activities. SilverSneakers offers over 70 different types of FLEX classes, from yoga to leisure walks to boot camp. You complete these classes in parks, neighborhoods, beaches, and more. Find out more information about the FLEX classes and schedule here.
How To Qualify for SilverSneakers
Unfortunately, Original Medicare plans (basic parts A and B coverage) don’t cover a SilverSneakers membership. SilverSneakers is considered a “gym membership or fitness program,” and the Medicare website explicitly says it won’t cover those.
You can check if your Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan covers SilverSneakers on the program’s website.
However, there is the chance that a Medicare Advantage plan will cover it. A supplemental (also known as a Medigap) plan could also cover the SneakerSilvers program. The SilverSneakers website says the program is covered by “one in four” Medicare programs, though the organization doesn’t specify if this is 25 percent of Medicare Advantage plans or 25 percent of all Medicare plans.
You can check if your Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan covers SilverSneakers on the program’s website. You can visit that same link if you’re in the market for a Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan and want to find one that include SilverSneakers in its coverage.
Enrolling In SilverSneakers
Once you know if you qualify for SilverSneakers, it’s time to enroll in the program.
If your Medicare plan covers SilverSneakers, visit the program’s website to get your SilverSneakers card. Once you have your card, take it to participating SilverSneakers gyms, and talk to the front desk about how you can get full access to their gym, classes, and amenities. From there, you’ll be able to join classes, use the workout equipment, and start meeting fellow active seniors.
You may want to consult your doctor before joining SilverSneakers, especially if you’ve had previous injuries related to physical activity, are recovering from an injury, or are new to fitness.
Can I Join SilverSneakers If My Medicare Plan Doesn’t Cover It?
No, this is a program that partners with Medicare plans only. SilverSneakers is funded through Medicare providers, and there is no membership fee you can pay in order to take part in the classes.
If you want to join a Medicare Advantage plan that covers SilverSneakers, you can switch from Original Medicare or your current Advantage plan during the Open Enrollment Period, which lasts from October 15 to December 7 every year. And if you’re interested in getting physically active in your community but don’t want to switch to a Medicare plan that covers SilverSneakers, contact a local gym or fitness center and inquire about the classes they offer for elderly people and their rates.
Where is SilverSneakers Offered?
SilverSneakers has more than 15,000 locations at participating gyms, community centers, and fitness centers around the country. This includes some of the country’s largest chains, like LA Fitness, the YMCA, and Planet Fitness.
In order to find the SilverSneakers classes that are available in your community, visit the SilverSneakers website, enter your zip code on the map, and discover all your fitness opportunities.
If you have any questions regarding the SilverSneakers program, how to enroll in it and have it covered by Medicare, and where you can attend a class, visit the SilverSneakers website or contact your Medicare Advantage provider.
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