It's no secret that America is aging. By the year 2030, the number of individuals 65 years and older will increase to 70 million. The average American lives a long life, but is often sedentary, unfit and chronically ill. This is due to a lifetime of inactivity. Medical interventions prolong life, but what about quality? In this series, we will explore health concerns, dispel myths, and provide guidance and resources for seniors regarding fitness.
According to experts on aging, rest is precisely what aging people do not need. Starting in middle age, people begin to gain fat and lose muscle, strength, bone, and aerobic capacity. Their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis climbs. They’re heading for the “disability zone” (Evens and Rosenberg 1991). The “disability zone” is the time span from the point at which a person no longer leads a quality life to his or her death. Our goal should be to avoid this pit fall and live a life where we are functional, healthy and capable of performing everyday tasks independently.
A properly designed and implemented exercise program for older adults can have many physical and emotional benefits. Of course, one of these benefits is that older persons can maintain an independent, active lifestyle. Exercise must be fun and meaningful for older adults not only by focusing on their physical needs, but also taking into account social and emotional needs.
In Part 2 of this series, we will look at exercise guidelines and program development.
*Free Gym Memberships
Do you or your residents qualify for a free gym membership? While exercising at 24 Hour Fitness (other gyms also participate) last month, I noticed a large senior presence. I spoke with one of the trainers and learned that most of the older adults were taking advantage of their insurance benefits and working out for free.
Many seniors are not aware that under their Medicare insurance program they may qualify for free membership to the local gym. Senior living communities with little to no exercise equipment will also arrange for the community bus to transport resident to the gym to attend senior focused classes or take advantage of the wide array of equipment. The trainer also had several seniors that were working with him. Because they were saving money on their membership, they signed up for personal training in order to learn how to safely use equipment, gain strength, improve posture, reduce pain and decrease their fall risk.
Many Medicare plans cover gym membership under the Silver Sneaker or Silver & Fit programs. Call your provider to check eligibility.
Popular Health Plans and coverage:
Aetna- Silver & Fit
Humana- Silver Sneaker
Kaiser Permanente- Silver & Fit
Optum Fitness Advantage (United Healthcare)- Optum
Premera Blue Cross- Silver & Fit
Regence Blue Cross & Blue Shield- Silver & Fit
United Healthcare- Silver Sneakers