SilverSneakers provides seniors with active, healthy lifestyle

June 18, 2013
photo - Marie Field, left, and Wayne Field laugh during a Sliver Sneakers class Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at the YMCA Garden Ranch in Colorado Springs.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Marie Field, left, and Wayne Field laugh during a Sliver Sneakers class Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at the YMCA Garden Ranch in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

ayne Field happily drives several miles, from his Broadmoor neighborhood to the Garden Ranch YMCA, three times per week to swim. Twice a week, he comes with his wife, Marie, for a fitness class.

"We really like the facility," Marie said, "but we mostly come to this one because we enjoy the people."

The Fields, both 87, value the YMCA membership and are able to enjoy it at no cost thanks to SilverSneakers - a nationwide health and wellness plan designed to assist older adults in living healthy, active lifestyles.

In Colorado, health plans offering the program include AARP MedicareComplete by UnitedHealthcare, AARP Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Humana and Kaiser Permanente.

Those eligible for the program receive a basic membership at participating fitness centers, where SilverSneakers classes focusing on improving strength, flexibility, balance and coordination are offered.

Increasingly, fitness clubs are signing up to participate.

"SilverSneakers is a fantastic plan," said Allen Vargas, a fitness consultant at Gold's Gym. "It gives the members an opportunity to participate in group classes with their peers and folks who may be facing the same issues they are."

Vargas noted that seniors are great at spreading the word.

"Every time I sign someone up for the plan, the same week they have three or four friends call or drop in to sign up, too," Vargas said.

The growth in attendance hasn't led to overcrowding at fitness centers because seniors typically use the facilities during slower periods of the day.

Becky Cleveland, active adults coordinator with the Briargate YMCA, said the center has a steady group of SilverSneakers members and noted that the social aspect has been significant.

"We have a SilverSneakers breakfast once a week as well as knitting groups, bridge groups and other activities to encourage the social piece of the membership," she said.

According to SilverSneakers, a study of more than 9,000 of its members showed high risk sedentary behavior was reduced by 59 percent with program participation. The program also asserts that participants utilize preventive care more often and are admitted to the hospital less often, resulting in lower health care costs.

Wayne and Marie Field certainly agree with those assessments.

"Before joining the YMCA, we lived in a retirement home where lots of folks were just sitting around waiting to die," Wayne said. "We moved out of that situation and have made friends here that are also interested in being active and healthy and in better physical condition."

A World War II Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Wayne started swimming at age 55. He competed five times in the Senior Olympics and continues to swim competitively.

Last year, Field won the Gangi Award, bestowed on the "most inspirational" athlete of the National Veterans Golden Age Games.

The Fields are staunch believers in fitness and exercise.

"By staying in better physical condition, we feel better," Marie said. "Life is so precious, and we don't want to waste it by being couch potatoes."

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