Guide to the SilverSneakers Program
Updated for September, 2021
Your physical health is a primary concern at any age, but it becomes especially important as you transition into your elderly years where health concerns, doctor’s visits, and prescriptions can pile up. All of these factors can inhibit your ability to stay active, but it’s as important as ever to remain physically active and engaged as you age.
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SilverSneakers does not sell sneakers, nor does it provide you with sneakers to use.
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.
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.
You can check if your Medicare Advantage or Medigap plan covers SilverSneakers on the program’s website.
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.
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.