Silver Sneakers funding ends for Bodyworks

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Terrah Baker

Staff Writer

The Silver Sneakers program held at Bodyworks in Salem, provides a daily exercise program to local seniors, and is now being shut down.

Drenda Sutton, the owner of Bodyworks and program director of Salem's Silver Sneakers chapter, said that the program is extremely important to the area's seniors and that closing it could risk lives.

"We have 73 Silver Sneakers and 92 seniors. Every day I? hear someone tell me how this class has saved their life. We have some seniors who could barely walk when they got here and now they're the most energetic of them all," Sutton said.

One senior, Cora Cochran, 71, said she's been coming to the program since it began a year and a half ago.

"I've lost 15 pounds, 39 inches and gained my coordination back. It's really helped me," Cochran said.

Silver Sneakers is a program that is paid for by the senior's insurance company. The insurance companies pay Healthways, the corporation that took over the Silver Sneakers program in January. Healthways then reimburses Sutton a monthly fee and any extra expenses incurred. The process was established to allow senior citizens to attend the class free of charge.

Many members, including Sutton, said they don't understand what made Healthways make the decision to end the program, but Sutton said she is working on ways to keep the program available for seniors in the Salem area.

One option Sutton said she has been debating is finding someone to take over the Silver Sneakers program who could put more time and effort into ensuring that the program meets Healthway's standards of conducting the class.

"I need to find someone who can run it the way it needs to be run. It's just too important to the community," Sutton said.

If the program is ended, it will be at the end of April and for seniors who come every day and have limited personal means, an equal standard of exercise is unaccessible.

"For most of us, joining a gym would be stretching our budget, if we could afford it at all," Kathy Callahen, a Silver Sneakers member, said.

Along with ending the Salem program, Healthways has decided to open a new Silver Sneakers program in Horseshoe Bend at Hillhigh Resort and Fitness Center.

Ann Jones, the future Horseshoe Bend Silver Sneakers program director said that she had applied for the program some time ago.

"I thought that we could really use it. We have 291 people that could use the program right here in Horseshoe Bend," Jones said.

Jones received this number from Healthways who conducts research on how many seniors in the area use the necessary insurance to utilize the service. The insurance accepted by Healthways is Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Humana, and AARP United Healthcare. Healthways does not accept Medicaid.

Jones said that a Silver Sneakers representative from Batesville should be arriving any day to give herself and her employees proper training on how to conduct the classes. After the training is complete, the classes will start. Healthways will also be sending out pamphlets letting seniors with the proper insurance know that they will be able to attend the classes.

As for now, the Salem Silver Sneakers participants said they will continue to attend until they are finally forced out.

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