Silver Sneakers program: health and helping could be their motto

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's a health club in its infancy, in a town of less than 2,000. Despite this Body Works fitness center in the Shaver Complex is setting the curve for exercise centers throughout northeast Arkansas.

According to Body Works owner Drenda Sutton, the club's senior members are due praise.

In December 2006, The News featured a story about the business's newly established Silver Sneakers program that provided the opportunity for senior citizens to join a health club free of charge.

Apparently the word has spread.

To date there are 61 members. Twelve of those 61 are over the age of 87; four are more than 90 years old. And of those 61, 96.84 percent attend three or more days a week, Sutton said.

However, the growth and the participation rate are not what is most impressive about the program.

Sutton said Silver Sneakers has also become like a type of social club and civic organization. Silver Sneakers participants come together to exercise, to enjoy each other's company and to help others.

"This gets the people who might otherwise be sitting at home alone out doing something," she said. "Now they make friends and go out and shop and eat together."

Sutton said these men and women have also begun working to assemble care packages to send to troops overseas.

Sutton said Silver Sneakers participants who are especially involved in this project use their own money to purchase gum, candy, non-perishable food items, paper, pencils, toiletries -- anything that might remind the soldiers of home and ease their stay in a foreign land.

"(Putting together care packages) really gives the members a true sense of purpose, and it shows," said Tori Uhiren, the Silver Sneakers public relations manager for northeast Arkansas.

"I don't have a child over there, but these men and women are everyone's children," said Silver Sneakers participant Mattie Weaver.

"We are definitely proud of the (business's) success, but really, that's not what's really important," Sutton said. "I get to see people come together to talk and laugh, and now they feel so proud to help people -- to me, that's what's really meaningful."

To date Sutton has shipped 29 packages overseas. Those interested in joining these efforts can call Body Works at 895-2236 or go online to

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