(Originally published in The Taos News)
Good news for people over sixty-five! If you are a senior citizen and have an insurance policy with Humana, Lovelace, Presbyterian or Secure Horizons Health Plans, you will get free membership at any local fitness center that is part of the SilverSneakers program.
The SilverSneakers Fitness Program is offered by Medicare health plans and Medicare Supplement carriers throughout the country. It is aimed to help older adults take greater control of their health.
One of the many benefits offered by the program is its customized classes, designed exclusively for older adults who want to improve their strength, flexibility, balance and endurance. It provides a fitness center membership to any participating location across the country.
Here inTaos, one of the participating locations is the NorthSide Spa and Fitness Center, a welcoming, family-friendly spot located in El Prado.
“That means that the SilverSneakers members can use the entire center for free and take as many classes as they want,” said Shelly Ratigan, the Spa owner.
The Northside Spa andFitnessCenteris a 2300 square-foot facility that features a weight training room as well as cardio equipment and an aerobics rooms. It has an Olympic-sized pool outside and an indoor pool, both with salt water.
It offers regular swimming and tennis lessons and yoga, aerobics, Pilates and Zumba classes. A Zumba Gold class, which is specifically designed for senior athletes, will start in September. And the SilverSneakers members are welcomed in them all.
“We always make sure that the instructors are aware of the new members and welcome them into our program.” said Ratigan. “Our purpose is to make them feel at home here.”
The Northside Spa SilverSneakers program started in December 2008 and has been growing ever since. There are currently 230 SilverSneakers members here and they attend classes on a regular basis.
“The SilverSneakers program has created a community here at North Side,” said instructor Cher Sharp. “The members meet three times a week, eight to fifteen people in a class. Afterwards, they may grab a cup of coffee at Jake’s Java, sit down and chat.”
Sharp is a certified fitness instructor and massage therapist who teaches several classes to SilverSneakers members and other regular gym goers. “Fit and Fabulous,” that takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:00 to 11:55 a.m., is one of the most popular ones.
“The biggest challenge our members face is the fact that starting a new fitness program, with a group of total strangers and amid a bunch of new machines, may seem intimidating,” Sharp said. “Signing up for a class is also a big commitment. But once they begin it, they love it! Here, people gain confidence, strength and friends.”
There are many reasons to start a fitness program. “Falls are a common cause of injury among senior citizens,” said Sharp. “Even moderate physical activity makes bones and muscles stronger, so people are less likely to fall.”
What the SilverSneakers members say
Janet Wheelock is an energetic 90-year-old lady with an infectious smile. “It is wonderful for me to be part of this class,” she said. “Cheris a fabulous teacher. She always says to us, ‘If you can’t do this, do something else, but keep active.’ She is so patient and fun!”
“I started this program because it is important for us seniors to work out, to keep in shape,” said Ana Martinez. “I also walk early in the mornings and do a lot of stretching at home, then I come here and work out withCher. Exercising makes my life easier. When I feel fit, I am happier and more energetic.”
“I started a year ago and now I come three times a week,” said Carmen Holt. “I can move my right arm now, something I couldn’t do before!”
Marcelle Polka, who is 85 years old, has been attending the Silver Sneakers programs for nine months. “It has given me mobility and balance and it has made all the difference in the world in my life,” she said. “Nothing offered a suitable program for us until this came along.”
According to the Office of Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fitness can be effectively used to help those who suffer from sleeping difficulties. It can also improve circulation and reduce high blood pressure, improve the autonomic nervous system’s ability to tolerate stress and encourage healthy appetite, contributing to nutritional wellbeing.
The Northside Spa is open weekdays from 6 am to 9 pm, weekends 8 am to 8 pm.
It is located at 1307 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, El Prado, NM 87529
Phone: (575) 751-1242