VANDALIA – As the overall age of the nation’s population continues to rise, communities all across the country have undertaken steps to engage senior citizens in wellness and fitness programs.
Senior wellness has long been an emphasis in the Vandalia Parks and Recreation Center, and that emphasis includes a vibrant Senior Center and fitness classes.
Those efforts received a major boost in 2014 when the popular Silver Sneakers program was introduced at the Vandalia Recreation center, and the number of participants has grown steadily. The facility also participates in ForeverFit, a program similar to Silver Sneakers.
Seniors as well as staff in the Parks and Recreation Department view the relationship as a win-win.
Members of Silver Sneakers can participate in classes at the Recreation Center at no charge. Their fees are paid by Healthways as an extension of their health insurance plan.
As of July 1, there were 963 Silver Sneakers participants enrolled as a member at the Vandalia Recreation Center – up from 597 in December of 2014, a 61 percent increase. On average, about a third of those enrolled participate on a monthly basis.
“The number of seniors in taking part in fitness classes, on the fitness floor, and water classes have increased which is excellent,” said Sarah Lavy serves as the Program Advisor for the Silver Sneakers program. “It’s been neat seeing staff interact with the seniors and the instructors really enjoy teaching the senior population.”
Lavy said that there are five Silver Sneakers classes each week at 7:30 a.m. that average 20 attendees. Classes are capped at 30 participants. Silver Sneakers members are also able to participate in other fitness classes at the Recreation Center.
Lavy said that participants not only get the physical benefits of exercise, but also benefit from the socialization and friendships of other seniors.
“It’s like social hour out there,” said Lavy. “What Silver Sneakers puts out there is to get fit, have fun, and make friends, and it’s really true. They come here, meet each other, and go out and do things together. And the staff and instructors here love engaging with them.”
One of the participants in a recent class said that he wouldn’t miss a Senior Strength class for anything. Henry Sturm, who is 88 years old, has been a long-time participant and doesn’t plan on stopping soon.
“I want to keep exercising until I die,” said Sturm. “When I exercise I feel better. I’ve been coming here for almost 10 years but I’ve been exercising my whole life. I think I’ll live longer by exercising. These people are all my friends, and I enjoy seeing them.”
There is also an upside for the Recreation Center which sees increased use and revenue that is paid by Healthways, not the Silver Sneakers member.
Healthways pays the city $3 per visit per member up to a maximum of $30 per month, equivalent to 10 visits. In 2014, that revenue was just over $35,000 for the nine months the program was in place. Through May of 2015, that total is nearly $29,000.
“We get reimbursed for up to 10 visits, but a lot of our members visit much more often than that, and we encourage that,” said Lavy. “We view it as a win-win for everyone.”
Lavy said that if a person’s insurance offers Silver Sneakers, it is easy to get enrolled.
“The enrollment process is free and easy,” said Lavy. “We can check eligibility online very quickly.”
Even if they are not eligible for Silver Sneakers, the Recreation Center offers its popular Senior Strength program free to VRC members. If not members, the classes are $3 each or 20 classes can be purchased for $40.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.