Delaware News

Silver Sneakers program thriving in county

Popular gym drops support for senior program, but many more options exist

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Delaware County senior citizens looking to stay fit and healthy still have options, even with some gyms dissolving their senior exercise programs.

Some residents who participate in the Silver Sneakers program at the former Urban Active location -- now L.A. Fitness -- on Sawmill Parkway felt snubbed after the gym announced this month it's dropping the free Medicare-supported program at the beginning of 2013.

But at least 11 other fitness centers in the area still offer Silver Sneakers, five of which offer year-round access to a pool.

The list includes Snap Fitness in Dublin, Rite Bite Wellness Center in Lewis Center, Anytime Fitness in Delaware, Curves in Powell and Metro Fitness locations in Worthington and Delaware, as well as five gyms with year-round pool access: Metro Fitness in Dublin, the Westerville Community Center, the Liberty Township-Powell YMCA, the Delaware Community Center YMCA and the Delaware Senior Center.

Margie Wojciechowski, senior public relations manager for Silver Sneakers, said any decision by a gym to discontinue participation is a private business decision.

"We don't know what their business strategy is, how that changes over time or why it changes," she said. "All we can do is continue to develop our network and expand."

Nationwide, more than 1,200 gyms joined the program last summer, Wojciechowski said. Anyone who is eligible for Medicare can participate in Silver Sneakers classes.

Jill Howard, who teaches Silver Sneakers classes at several gyms in the area, said seniors should be aware that they can drop in for classes at any participating gym -- even gyms they don't usually attend.

Bev Muntean, 65, attends free water-exercise classes at L.A. Fitness to fend off arthritis pain. She said she's already looking for a new gym, but worries some locations won't offer the same early-morning hours she enjoyed there.

"I'm going to have to figure it out, but I'm not giving up swimming," she said. "I just have to find the right place."

Urban Active announced in November that it is ready to discontinue the program after the company was acquired by Irvine, Calif.-based L.A. Fitness.

Calls and emails to officials at L.A. Fitness corporate headquarters in Irvine were not returned.

It's not the first gym in the county to nix its senior programming. Some Urban Active participants migrated there after Lifestyle Fitness in Dublin dropped Silver Sneakers in 2010 after it was bought out by Life Time Fitness.

Meanwhile, some gyms actually are expanding Silver Sneakers participation. The Liberty Township-Powell YMCA recently added additional water-fitness classes to accommodate more seniors.

Some participating gyms are extending special services to seniors to sweeten the deal.

Curves, a fitness center for women, hosts a Silver Sneakers social club where members can meet for tea or lunch.

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