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Let’s face it folks– working out can be a drag, but working out by yourself can be a motivational killer. If you like to get out and interact with people, and think you could use that extra motivation that comes from not going at it alone, a fitness center can be a goldmine! Plus we all know that health is more important than wealth, and for those of you who thought that you need the latter to get to the former, well, let’s just say that you may be in for a nice surprise.
Jennifer Hervey, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Elverson’s Twin Valley Family Fitness (TVFF), loves the seniors that come to her facility. In fact, she was inspired to open TVFF because of a senior couple she knew who attended the local YMCA before it closed down.
“The woman, who was 86, told me she wanted to stay healthy enough to take a trip and see her son get married. With the YMCA closing, she was afraid that her health would suffer from losing a place to exercise.”
When TVFF opened its doors, it had to do so in a way that would help those seniors get in and get interacting. Hervey said that one major way of making that happen was by working with a program known as SilverSneakers.
Silver Sneakers is a fitness program created by Healthways, a world-wide disease management company. It is the nation’s leading fitness program, and is designed exclusively for older adults in accordance with the Surgeon General’s recommendation for frequent exercise. The program is a benefit for managed care organizations’ Medicare members, and eligible plan members gain access to a free fitness center membership at participating locations – locations such as TVFF.
“We are very excited to have classes for seniors here,” said Hervey, who estimates that 40 percent of the 450 members of TVFF are seniors. “We have a large senior population and to be able to offer this service to them, a service which exists to promote independence and activeness, is critical.”
Working with Healthways and teaching SilverSneakers classes has gone very well for TVFF and the seniors in the community.
“Anyone over 65 can come in and we will check out their information online to see if they are eligible. There are thousands of eligible individuals in our area, and many of them do not know that they could get a free membership. Plus, at TVFF, your first visit is always free. We can even check SilverSneakers eligibility and validate someone, typically within 5 minutes.”
SilverSneakers is also the name given to physical activity classes designed by Healthways. These group exercise classes have been designed to increase muscular strength, endurance, and range of movement. SilverSneakers classes are very safe, multilevel, equipment-based, and focus on total-body conditioning.
SilverSneakers core class, MSROM (muscular strength and range of movement), is taught at TVFF by Elaine Eroh. Eroh, a fitness professional since 1983, has been certified by Healthways to teach four SilverSneakers programs. She follows the parameters set by Healthways, but puts her own special touches on the program to suit the personalities and needs of the seniors who attend MSROM.
“Our group is a very diverse bunch of retirees,” she explained, “some were teaches, homemakers, or business professionals. Some have been exercising their entire lives, and others have not. Some are here because their doctors have suggested that they exercise. One thing that they all have in common is that they are all very social and active – many are quite busy in their personal lives with clubs, traveling, kids, grandkids, and also with their own parents.”
She knows that classes such as MSROM helps them all stay active and doing those things they want to be doing. It is a very low impact class accompanied by music with the exercises synced to the rhythm. The 45-minute class classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 9 a.m. Once all have settled in, Eroh begins with a warm up of marching in place, then transitions into a series of seated exercise, and then continues with a mix of standing and seated exercises.
“It works every joint and every muscle,” she said, “It’s not just exercise - it’s science.”
Several of the seated exercises involve using either a small exercise ball, a set of one to three pound weights, and a resistance band.
Many of the exercises mimic everyday movements - putting on a necklace, turning a door knob, and opening and closing the lid on a jar. As she leads the class in stretching, twisting, lifting, and rotating exercises, Eroh talks about how each movement benefits things such as balance, coordination, core strength, and leg strength. Yet Eroh is not the only one talking, because MSROM is as about as social as an exercise group can be.
“The exercise is important, but I love the socialization. If it wasn’t for the socialization I wouldn’t be here,” said SilverSneakers attendee June Taggart of Morgantown, “Elaine is just great and I try to come twice a week. I really notice a difference if I stop coming.”
They know each other well, and so they talk about all types of matters - family, health, life – one member announces that she has just become a great-great-grandmother. Other conversations of the day include birds, travel, and a historical chat about Bastille Day. They also make mention of a MSROM regular who is absent and facing some health issues.
“They are friends,” said Eroh, “they support one another and they worry about one another. When someone is absent it is noticed. This is a support group as much as it is an exercise group.”
There is also a healthy amount of joking taking place. The group takes breaks to recover from the exercises and also to recover from the laughter.
As the class winds down, the group chats about going out to get some breakfast at a local restaurant. For them, eating a meal together has become a monthly tradition.
Another SilverSneakers program offered at TVFF is Fitness Lite, which is taught by fitness instructor Carol Ruffner. It is a mixture of aerobic exercise and weight training. Ruffner describes it as an intermediate level of exercise.
“I will get 30 people in class on a busy day,” she said, “our class runs for about 45 minutes, three times a week starting at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are many different ways for seniors to exercise. With SilverSneakers they can find their right fitness level, and it is a real nice group of people.”
It is not just SilverSneakers classes which are made available to qualifying seniors. Those in the program have access to everything a regular TVFF membership has to offer. One senior member who attends other TVFF classes is Wayne Ramer of Knauertown.
“I do it all, Zumba, Pilates, and the weight training and cardio. This has really helped me out as I have matured.”
Ramer says he has always been an active person, which may explain why he typically visits TVFF six times a week.
“I come as often as I can. When you exercise you just feel good. The different classes here make a good mix. The Zumba really limbers you up, because you twisting around all the time, and then you get strength and aerobic exercise from other classes like Cardio Pump.”
Ramer enjoys it so much that he has reached out to friends who he felt would benefit from a membership to TVFF. Word of mouth is the bester advertisement, after all.
“We generally see a lot of seniors here early in the morning,” said Mary Galpin, Member Services Supervisor for TVFF, “but we have evening classes as well. If anyone has questions about Silver Sneakers they can give me a call at 610-901-3373 and I would be happy to help them.”
Ted Tedrick of Morgantown is another senior who often finds himself coming out to exercise and chat with people.
“I do just about everything I can here. It is the social atmosphere and the variety of programs that keep me coming back to (TVFF).”
As Tedrick warms up for a cycling class led by Ruffner, he offers praise for the TVFF staff.
“The instructors make this place – they are very tuned in to what seniors want and need from exercise. This is a great place not only because of the exercising, but because of the people you meet. Everyone here loves it. It’s the best thing in town!”
Should an individual not qualify for a SilverSneakers membership, good clubs like TVFF have other ways for people to get in the door, such as membership price reductions.
“We have income-based membership for people who are on a budget,” Hervey explained. “All someone needs to do is bring in some information and talk with me about a reduced rate and we will do our best to make get them a membership. We keep the information very secret – they would only talk with me about the financial details.”
Many clubs have different styles of memberships as well. TVFF, for example, has two styles of memberships, and each is eligible for income-based adjustments.
“We have our cancel any time memberships, which also allow for someone to put their membership on ‘hold’ if they are going to need time away. We also have annual contracts which typically get a 15 percent discount,” said Hervey.
There are even health themed talks for seniors which are free and open to all.
“We have a tea or lunch for seniors every other month,” she continued, “during these we give free talks on nutrition and other topics (relevant to senior living). They are free to anyone in the community – not just TVFF members – so visit our website or call in to find out about what is coming up.”
There are also other services on site such as physical therapy, massage, a nutritionist, and more. Though not free, some of them will accept insurance. TVFF is also in the process of bringing a chiropractor.
“We invite seniors to come out and see how much fun we have here. We do not just provide fitness, we incorporate social engagement,” said Hervey, “Our goal is to offer a complete lifestyle experience which engages your mind and your body. As people age they lose friends and have changes to the social aspects of their lives, but when they get together in groups - such as Silver Sneakers - it really helps them feel their best.”
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To find out more about Twin Valley Family Fitness go online to www.tvfamilyfitness.com
Healthways is the leading provider of specialized comprehensive solutions for millions of people looking to maintain or improve their health or well-being. To learn about Healthways’ SilverSneakers fitness program go to www.SilverSneakers.com