With newfound friends, Jefferson City seniors kick it into another gear.
You can wear any shoes you want, but if you are in your golden years, and you need a little extra spring in your step, SilverSneakers is the place to be. It’s a program that’s nothing short of magic, designed to keep people who are 65 and older healthy and moving. There are dozens of classes offered in Jefferson City through the YMCA and The LINC.
“It provides me things that I need,” says Junko Steenson, a YMCA SilverSneakers fanatic. “I go every day. I get exercise, and I’ve gotten to know people, so I look forward to going and it’s a social thing too.”
Junko says the older she gets, the more she realizes if she doesn’t maintain a certain amount of motion, she will lose the ability to move. She lives alone, so in addition to the 45 minutes to an hour of exercise, she also loves the fact there is a community of people in the classes who enjoy each other’s company. She goes early to have coffee and socialize before exercises begin.
Corina Bryant, who attends SilverSneakers at The LINC, also loves the time spent with people in her classes. “When you exercise with them, it doesn’t feel like exercise — it’s fun,” she says.
“I believe in the program because it works.”Michelle Malone
The experience Junko and Corina describe is exactly how the SilverSneakers program was designed. Classes offered at two YMCA facilities, The LINC, and several area churches (through the YMCA) are some of the highest attended fitness classes in the area, with the most willing participants.
The biggest benefits YMCA Wellness Director Quinton Sallin sees from the program are the participants staying active, building strength in both their muscles and bones, and gaining endurance for a more active life.
“As they gain strength and become more active, they become believers in the program and in themselves,” Quinton says.
He adds that exercise also improves a person’s appetite, which helps keep them energized and more willing to socialize.
“I believe in the program because it works,” says Michelle Malone, exercise instructor at The LINC. “I’ve had participants come to me and tell me they have lowered their blood pressure and sugar intake, pain and stress levels, and increased bone density. They are smiling because they have reached their goals and are going beyond them.”
Those goals also include having better balance, lower cholesterol, and living a better quality of life, not just living longer. Not falling down, or falling and not getting hurt, are huge benefits of exercise as people age, according to SilverSneakers coordinators and instructors. Many of their classes can be chair-based, making them safe for all seniors.
“I love teaching SilverSneakers yoga on Fridays at the YMCA,” says YMCA Instructor Janet Bloemke. “What a great way to end the week by stretching and strengthening our bodies and calming our minds.”
“I go every day.”Junko Steenson
In addition to all the physical benefits, exercise has long been known to improve mental health as well. It’s those results, and the sense of belonging in a supportive community, that have participants smiling, chatting, rosy-cheeked, and happy as they depart their SilverSneakers classes. Maybe it’s a golden glow… or maybe it’s silver!
How did it start, and how can one attend?
SilverSneakers was started in Arizona in 1992 by Mary Swanson. When her father survived a heart attack, she saw a need for a program to help keep the aging population physically active. Now that the program has been around for 30 years, it has grown to more than 100 million visits at over 23,000 fitness locations.
It has become available through any participating Medicare Advantage or insurance plan. An individual interested in attending Silver Sneakers can check their Medicare plan or insurance plan to be sure Silver Sneakers is offered and then can visit any facility offering classes. The facilities are reimbursed by the user’s insurance or Medicare plan.