Oxford resident Susan Horn pulls on her scuffed tennis shoes in preparation for her daily 2 mile walk on the local sidewalks around the neighborhood, town and campus.
However, with warm weather and two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in her system, Horn now has somewhere new to walk: the Miami University Rec Center, a participating community center in the SilverSneakers program.
SilverSneakers is a free program offered through qualifying Medicare Advantage plans for seniors 65 years and older. According to SilverSneakers’ official website, members receive access to online workouts, more than 17,000 gyms and community centers, fitness classes, a fitness app and discounts on health-related items.
Before the pandemic, Margi Moul, an Oxford resident and member of SilverSneakers, frequented aerobics and weight lifting classes at the rec center in an effort to stay healthy.
“It’s a really smart thing for insurance companies to do,” Moul said. “The healthier we are, the less they have to pay for things.”
Another Oxford resident Carol Schnipper also joined the SilverSneakers program after turning 65 this past year. As a former nurse, Schnipper realizes the importance of exercise and the potential health benefits of programs like SilverSneakers.
“The body starts turning on you by the time you reach a certain age, and if you don’t stay limber and have a good strong core, there’s a problem down the line,” Schnipper said.
Although Moul is an avid walker, she had a similar realization that prompted her to join the program.
“You reach a certain point where you realize that you have to do a little more than just walking,” Moul said.
Before moving to Oxford from St. Louis this past year, Horn was an active member of the SilverSneakers. Although she and her husband have yet to utilize the program since moving, Horn said it benefits its members by motivating them to stay active.
“The positive was that we just kept doing it,” Horn said. “It definitely encourages you to get out there.”
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At Miami’s rec center, members of the SilverSneakers have access to all the facilities and equipment. Additionally, there are a variety of different classes available, including yoga, step, barre, aerobic exercise, aquatics and more.
A popular activity among members is pickleball.
“Talking to relatives, they say that – oh my gosh – there are tournaments, and I mean big tournaments,” Schnipper said. “Like tennis, you can have varying levels of confidence and some of them get really intense and aggressive. Now, having said that, there are a lot of people who are just starting out, like me, too.”
The program also offers online classes and workouts. However, Moul prefers to attend in-person.
“You can now access it on your TV, but it’s not nearly as fun as being there with other people,” Moul said.
Over the last year, many senior residents, including Moul, Schnipper and Horn, have not attended the gym or community center in-person due to the global pandemic.
However, as of Feb. 8, citizens 65 years of age and older were eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the City of Oxford’s website. Several local residents have received both doses of their vaccine and are cautiously returning to their social lives: intimately seeing family, having dinner with friends and exercising at the recreation center.
For Schnipper, the COVID-19 vaccine provides reassurance.
“It relieves a lot of the stress on me,” Schnipper said.
Without the fear of getting sick, Schnipper, Horn and Moul are returning to Miami’s rec center in an effort to stay healthy: using available exercise equipment, walking around the indoor track and playing pickleball.
“Frankly, 60 is the new 40,” Schnipper said. “You are still, or can be, in great shape, emotionally and mentally.”