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Silver And Fit: Seniors Embrace Exercise
Newhouse News ^ | 1/8/2008 | Mary Klaus

Posted on 01/08/2008 1:53:17 PM PST by Incorrigible

Silver And Fit: Seniors Embrace Exercise



Joe Schell and his wife, Betty, at right in black top, work out in the Silver Sneakers fitness program at a local Gold's Gym. Senior participation in such programs is up around the country. (Photo by Dan Gleiter)


[Harrisburg, Pa] -- As a teenager Joe Labashousky enjoyed being physically active.

Six decades later, he still does.

Four mornings a week, the 78-year-old Steelton, Pa., man uses weight machines at a local Gold's Gym to work out his arms, shoulders and abdominal muscles.

Labashousky also participates in the Silver Sneaker Fitness Program, one of the gym's fastest growing classes.

"The stereotype is that older people don't want to do anything physical like this,'' said Jan Capen, adviser for the Silver Sneakers program at Gold's Gym. "Actually, they do. They just want to feel comfortable and accepted. In this program, they are.''

Droves of senior citizens are joining gyms and health clubs. Like younger people, they've discovered that exercise improves their health and skin tone, eases chronic conditions, staves off the effects of aging and gives them energy and a better quality of life.

The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade association serving the health and fitness club industry, reports that clubs had 8.5 million members over the age of 55 in 2006, a 314 percent increase since 1990, said Rosemary Lavery, association spokeswoman. She said that 4 million of these are over age 65.

Juanita I. Pless of the state Department of Aging said that working out has become so popular with Pennsylvania seniors that the state's 52 Area Agencies on Aging have added programs.

"Last year, the agencies had 111,822 activities such as walking programs, line dancing and aquasize, exercise in water,'' said Pless, coordinator of the department PrimeTime Health program that promotes health and disease prevention.

Pless said seniors, like younger adults, are concerned about obesity, independence and well being.

"As you age, you want to stay vibrant and flexible enough to do your daily activities without assistance,'' she said. "Exercise helps you do that, improve your balance,'' and have fewer falls. "Exercise programs also reduce stress and provide good socialization. It's helps people think more clearly and look better.''

Capen has 165 seniors enrolled in her Silver Sneakers program. During a recent class, she started with warm-up and range-of-movement exercises.

"Listen to your bodies before you listen to me,'' she advised as she and her students marched to show tunes. She guided the students through stretches of their arms, legs, hands, and feet.

Capen said that strength training "helps people when it's time to carry the groceries in the house. Picking up their feet helps them go over curbs. The motto here is get fit, have fun and make friends.''

Emily Shorty Turns, 84, of Harrisburg, Pa., said Silver Sneakers and step aerobics "keep me moving to music and keeps my muscles in shape.'' James Beury, 76, of Swatara Township, works out up to three hours daily.

Labashousky, who over the past several years has had five heart bypasses and two major breaks in his left leg, said he never worked out in a gym before joining Silver Sneakers in 2003.

"My doctors wanted to put me on medicine because my triglycerides were out of whack,'' he said. "I was tired of taking medicine. So I decided to change my eating habits and work out. I asked my doctor how much I should do and he said, 'If you hurt, it's too much.' I started slowly and built myself up. Now I go to the gym four days a week. It's addictive. I've also made friends here.''

Labashousky, a recent widower who is the father of four and grandfather of three, said working out has improved his endurance. ``It makes you feel and look younger too,'' he said. "I don't know why more elderly people don't go out there to work out.''

The Silver Sneakers program at Annex Sports and Fitness in Camp Hill, Pa., was so popular another class was added, said Ken Barclay, the facility's operations manager. "We have 450 Silver Sneakers members. We get 50 to 60 people in a class.

"Once they start a program, seniors are more like to stay with it than a 45 year old,'' he said. "Their biggest complaint is that they want more. We also offer our own program, Senior Fit. It's a wave of the future. Tell seniors membership is free because insurance pays for it and they're here! They also like the social aspects.''

Michael Gabrielle, manager of LA Fitness Sports Clubs in Lower Paxton Township, said seniors come to two to three times weekly to participate in the Silver Sneaker program. "A lot come in early morning or up to midday. They also like our specialized programs. Some use personal trainers.''

Bebe Stauffer, manager of Platinum Health & Fitness, also in Lower Paxton Township, credits Silver Sneakers with increasing the number of seniors who attend the gym. Platinum has 150 Silver Sneakers members.

"We have a 90-year-old lady who come in with a walker for the low gear spinning class,'' she said. "She gets on the bike and goes to town three times a week.''

* * *


The Silver Sneakers program focuses on strength, flexibility, balance and endurance and is designed for people 65 and older. Silver Sneakers programs include free basic membership in participating fitness centers. It also includes access to conditioning classes, exercise equipment and health education seminars. Programs are free to most seniors in participating Medicare health plans or Medicare Supplement carriers.

(Mary Klaus is a staff writer for the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa. She can be contacted at mklaus(at)

Not for commercial use.  For educational and discussion purposes only.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Pennsylvania

Don't these people know they're bankrupting Social Security!

Somebody get to these people and tell them they should be eating buttery foods and smoking cigarettes!


1 posted on 01/08/2008 1:53:20 PM PST by Incorrigible
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To: qam1

Let the generational squabbling commence!

2 posted on 01/08/2008 1:54:14 PM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: Incorrigible

3 posted on 01/08/2008 2:11:10 PM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: billorites

I love this. I am 52 years old and am just now getting my personal trainer’s certification. My goal is to work with the elderly...I loved seeing this. And I love Jack LaLane! Anyone seen Sly Stallone lately? Wow!

4 posted on 01/08/2008 2:18:29 PM PST by freepertoo
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To: Incorrigible
Let the generational squabbling commence!

ooookkk, A record 4th ping in one day just before bed

Xer Ping

Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.

Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.  

5 posted on 01/08/2008 8:52:28 PM PST by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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