- Associated Press - Saturday, June 30, 2018

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - People of all ages see numerous benefits from exercise. There’s improved cardiovascular health and overall well-being. But older adults benefit in ways that can help in their daily lives as they continue to age.

“Balance is a major thing and to get balance you have to strengthen your body and you have work on the balance exercises,” said Jessica Pritchett, the director of Wiregrass SilverFit, a new fitness program in the area that targets adults age 65 and older.

The fitness program focuses on improving posture, range of motion, and even pain management, Pritchett said.

But even knowing the benefits, many older adults avoid exercise out of fear of not being able to do the movements or because of the cost, Pritchett said. Wiregrass SilverFit is designed for all abilities and free for those who have a Silver Sneakers benefit as part of their Medicare Advantage plan or private health insurance plan.

Wiregrass SilverFit was created by HealthActions Physical Therapy in Dothan and is based on the Silver Sneakers Flex program. The SilverFit classes started a few months ago and are currently offered at the Terrace at Grove Park, Westgate Recreation Center, Rose Hill Senior Center, and Cottonwood Senior Center. Classes will begin at Dothan’s Wiregrass Park in August, said Jason Jackson, operations manager at HealthActions in Dothan.



Silver Sneakers is an insurance benefit that provides fitness opportunities for adults ages 65 and older. Those who are eligible through their healthcare plans have free access to gyms and fitness classes around the country, including several gyms in the Dothan area. Silver Sneakers Flex is a program that offers fitness classes outside of a traditional gym setting, such as at senior centers and recreation centers.

For those who do not have the Silver Sneakers benefit, the fee for SilverFit Flex classes is kept low so that all older adults can participate even if they’re on a fixed income, Jackson said.

“We just didn’t want to be exclusionary,” Jackson said. “We tried to build a program that everybody could participate in whether they had an exercise benefit like Silver Sneakers or not.”

The fee for those who do not have the Silver Sneakers benefit is $25 a month for an unlimited number of classes. That equals about $2 a class if you go three times a week - which is the typical number of days the Wiregrass SilverFit is offered at each location. The fee is $40 a month for a family, such as a couple.

If you don’t know if you have a Silver Sneakers benefit, you can check your eligibility by visiting www.silversneakers.com or calling 866-584-7389. Or, HealthActions can look up your eligibility.

And while HealthActions likes to transition its physical therapy patients into the SilverFit program, there’s no requirement that you have to be a patient of HealthActions to participate.

“In a lot of cases they are transitioning from a therapy situation to home so this is a way they can participate in a class to further that mobility training, fall prevention and balance,” Jackson said. “We teach them in satellite locations around the community so that seniors can come to a location very close to where they live and participate for a very nominal fee.”

While SilverFit instructors are certified through the Silver Sneakers program, HealthActions has committed to having a licensed physical therapist in classes once a month to ensure movements are therapeutic, Jackson said.

Wiregrass SilverFit classes begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. In between, exercises may include leg lifts and stretch band exercises such as bicep curls and rowing. Some movements are even done chairs. The focus is on everything from posture to balance to functional movements such as simply getting up and down.

“If they can’t do it we always show a modification,” Pritchett said. “There’s always a modification for anything you do.”

For those who don’t have the Silver Sneakers benefit, payments are usually done by bank draft or payments to a credit or debit card. However, those uncomfortable with that can pay in advance in three-month, six-month and 12-month increments.

Jackson said they’re working to add additional locations in Slocomb, Ozark, Kinsey, and Headland.

“Any local civic organization or church if they want to participate, we’d love to talk to them,” Jackson said. “Basically we’re just looking for people to provide space for the exercise class and there’s no cost to them other than providing space.”

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