Volume 76, Number 27 | November 22 - 28, 2006


From left: Silver Sneaker athletes Lilli Brown, Laura Pham, Lucille Mims and Melvin Ross

Let the games, and the health improvements, begin!

By Judith Stiles

Growing old has not quelled the fiery spirit of 65-year-old Lucille Mims, and in spite of those familiar creaky health issues that come with aging, she took on the daunting task of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. In simple clothes and without designer running shoes, she walked at a good clip, cheered on by family and friends who urged her along from different checkpoints. After she crossed the finish line, she was awarded a gold medal from the Silver Sneakers Fitness Program, a national award-winning fitness plan, which sponsored the event.

“It felt great being out there and walking across the bridge, but it is always rough the next day,” noted the statuesque Mims, as she posed for a photograph with her fellow Silver Sneakers buddies.

Silver Sneakers is designed to encourage Medicare-eligible Americans to increase their physical activity. It provides free fitness center memberships, customized classes and individualized programs for anyone 65 years or older.

“We see a 78 percent reduction in high-risk, sedentary behavior among our members after they join Silver Sneakers,” said Mary Ferron of Health Care Dimensions, a healthcare services company that promotes health in older adults. “Not only does this increase in activity improve the health and well-being of these members,” Ferron added. “It also helps avoid unnecessary healthcare costs.”

This program is offered in more than 31 states and is partnered with 1,100 fitness centers, including New York City’s Chelsea Piers, the Sol Goldman Y on E. 14th St., many senior centers, churches and local community organizations throughout the city. Since the program’s creation, even among members who were fairly active before they joined, the number of members who exercised for 30 minutes at least three times a week changed from 50 percent to 74 percent. This type of behavior shift could reduce direct medical costs by $77 billion annually, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Among the free events that Silver Sneakers sponsors in November is an Olympics-inspired introductory event at Chelsea Piers. Any senior who is bold enough to try and complete the three legs of the event will receive a gold medal, while a silver medal is given for the completion of two events, and the bronze for one. And if Grandpa and Grandma are nervous about taking the plunge into the world of fitness programs, they need not worry because the patient and enthusiastic Sharon Fagan leads the group through the mini-events. She always encourages everyone to stop and rest at any time, if necessary.

In the first of the two November mini-Olympics for seniors, a vivacious Terri Margerum of Silver Sneakers warmly greeted the contestants in the gym at Pier 60 on Chelsea Piers, as everyone prepared for the chair exercise event. For 20-plus minutes nonstop, Fagan led the group in a series of quick-paced exercises that even gave the fingers and toes a workout, all to the tunes of Frank Sinatra. For the second part of the event, everyone walked a minimum of a quarter-mile around the track at his or her own pace, with the energetic Laura Pham at the front of the pack. She is well known at the Sol Goldman Y for being highly disciplined about her extensive exercise regimen, which she faithfully completes every day.

Before the third part of the program, an enthusiastic Melvin Ross belted out, “I’m going for the gold!” as he tried his hand at yoga. Alfred Parsons and Tom Wong confidently breezed through all three events, as they were already recipients of the President’s Active Lifestyle Award, which is given by Silver Sneakers to those who dedicate themselves to exercising, as recorded by an outstanding number of regular visits to their fitness center.

Secure Horizons, which is the new healthcare provider formed by the merger of Uniteld Health Care and Oxford, sponsored the event and will be hosting it again on Tues., Nov. 28, from 9 a.m. to noon. Anyone 65 and over is welcome to attend for free but one must pre-register. And, besides a glorious gold medal, everyone gets a tasty free lunch, an opportunity to socialize and meet new people, and the chance to compare notes on the aches and pains that undoubtedly follow any triathalonesque event.

For more information, visit silversneakers.com or call 1-888-423-4623 to pre-register.

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