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SilverSneakers a good fit for exercising seniors

By Sonny Long
June 18, 2012 at 1:18 a.m.

While exercising in the SilverSneakers program, Isabel Van Beveren, 88, of Cuero, extends her arms with a set of light weights with no problem.


SilverSneakers, a Healthways exercise program designed exclusively for older adults, has about 1.4 million members nationwide. To determine eligibility for the program, contact your insurance provider or call 888-423-4632. Some other numbers related to SilverSneakers:

•  2,126 - Number of fitness centers in Texas offering the program

• 73 - Average age of members

• 69 - Percentage of SilverSneakers participants who report two or more chronic conditions

• 46 - Percentage of SilverSneakers members who never had a gym membership prior to joining the program

• 17 - Percentage of members age 80 or older

SOURCE: Healthways


In addition to the Cuero Wellness Center, SilverSneakers fitness programs are available at the following Crossroads locations:

• Victoria YMCA

• Calhoun County YMCA

• Yoakum Shape Shop Fitness & Wellness Center

• El Campo Heritage Center

• Snap Fitness, El Campo

• Fit For Life, Bay City

At 88, Isabel Van Beveren knows the benefit of staying active.

As a participant in the SilverSneakers fitness program at the Cuero Wellness Center, Van Beveren works out twice a week with fellow senior citizens.

"It keeps me more active, more limber," Van Beveren said. "It makes me feel good."

And feeling good is what SilverSneakers is about - both physically and emotionally.

"I like the camaraderie," said Elsie Johnson, 77, who has been a member about two years.

"The program also gives me a variety of exercises I don't do otherwise. There are lots of stretches. It works all the muscles that you use," Johnson said.

Fellow SilverSneaker participant Mary Jane Haskins, 83, agreed with Johnson.

"I love the camaraderie, too. We have a good group. It's fun. We laugh at each other," she said.

But it's not all giggles in the muscular strength and range of motion class.

"I used to work hard on the ranch, but this is different," Haskins said. "I need it. I need the stretching."

Mary Jane Vasquez, the "baby" of this group at 57, is thrilled with the results she has gotten since starting the program earlier this year.

"It helps me get around better," she said. "I can actually get up in the morning without help."

Marlis Felber, 83, who has attended SilverSneakers in Cuero about four years, too, likes the social aspect of the fitness group.

"I have only been in Cuero seven years and met a lot of nice people through SilverSneakers that I wouldn't have met otherwise," she said.

Felber, who has undergone both knee and hip replacement surgeries, said the program is perfect for her.

"I needed the therapy," she said. "I can get up and down."

Chandra Carbonara, Cuero Wellness Center manager who also leads the exercise group on occasion, called the Monday and Friday class, a "group of sweet ladies."

Although this particular class did have three men in the group of 15, SilverSneakers participants are mostly women.

The class always begins with a warm-up session.

"The class works on balance, muscular strength, stretching and flexibility and a little cardiorespiratory for the heart," Carbonara said.

Participants also use hand weights where they can choose from between one to 10 pounds, a stretch tube and a ball during the session. The ball is used to gain strength in the hands and improve coordination, Carbonara said.

"They are a real pleasure to work with," Carbonara said of the Cuero class members. "They work hard and appreciate what we are trying to do."



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