What Is Silver Sneakers?
Well-being after 65 is more than a medical issue. It also has physical and emotional aspects. A health and fitness program called SilverSneakers addresses these needs.
You access it through many, but not all, Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans and a few Supplement insurance (Medigap) plans.
You realize that more physical activity would be good for you as you age. Yet going to the gym may feel intimidating. A support network grows from the time spent exercising and interacting with your peers.
SilverSneakers offers indoor, outdoor, online, and at-home fitness options. It also holds events that promote social connections.1
What Are the Eligibility Requirements?
SilverSneakers is not a program affiliated with or administered by Medicare; it’s privately owned and run. So, it is not available through your Original Medicare coverage. You must have one of 60-plus specific Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, or group retiree health plans to qualify for membership.
The program caters to adults aged 65 and over, but it is also available to younger people with Medicare plans.
Does Medicare Cover This?
SilverSneakers is a wellness program, not a medical benefit. For that reason, Medicare does not cover membership. But a link does exist. You access it through one of the private insurance companies approved to help cover Medicare-related services.
The out-of-pocket healthcare costs associated with Original Medicare (Parts A and B) can be a burden. One in two Medicare beneficiaries chooses either Part C (Medicare Advantage) or a Medicare Supplement insurance plan (Medigap) to lower those open-ended costs.2
Medicare Advantage plans offer most of the SilverSneakers fitness benefits. Plan providers may not offer them in every state or every option within a state. Be aware that Medicare Advantage plan benefits can change from year to year. Review your Annual Notice of Change letter each year to confirm that your plan will continue offering that benefit in the upcoming year.
Far fewer Supplement insurance providers offer this benefit. An online search showed a few states with two to three Medigap insurers providing the plan. Most states had one.
What Does It Cost?
If you have SilverSneakers in your health plan, you get all the advantages of membership at little or no extra cost. It depends on the gym you choose.
You cannot buy a SilverSneakers membership as an individual.
How Does the Program Work?
SilverSneakers’ parent company, Tivity Health, Inc., does not own or operate the participating locations. Instead, it joined forces with 17,000 locally-owned gyms, national fitness brands, and community-based organizations.3
They provide instructors who lead workouts and SilverSneakers classes.
What Does Membership Include and Exclude?
Membership offers classes designed for seniors, from chair-supported yoga to high-intensity interval workouts.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests adults get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, plus two days of muscle-strengthening activity.4 You can meet that with a few SilverSneakers classes.
You can work out at any SilverSneakers-affiliated facility in the U.S.
You can also access over 120 online guided workouts at SilverSneakers.com. These videos include:
- Strength training.
- Fall prevention.
- SilverSneakers EnerChi.
You can install a mobile fitness app called SilverSneakers Go that lets you find locations, schedule activities, and track your progress. The app also offers access to a video library of guided workouts. For walking programs, you can give the app permission to track your route and save your activity to your activity log.
You get a basic membership at any participating location in the SilverSneakers network. But you are not limited to using one site. Facilities, amenities, and classes vary by location. In general, membership provides access to:
- Cardio equipment.
- Strength equipment.
- Amenities (pools and walking tracks).
- All SilverSneakers network classes.
Membership does not cover personal services or training, but you can pay for them on your own.
How Does Membership Benefit You?
SilverSneakers helps seniors connect to one another through its programs and community. It seeks to help older adults overcome loneliness and social isolation. Sixty percent of members surveyed in 2018 said they made valuable relationships with other members. Eighty percent said it improved their quality of life.5
- Greater well-being and independence.
- Better balance, flexibility, and strength.
- Less loneliness and depression
- Lower healthcare costs.
- Fewer hospital admissions.
How Do You Get a Membership?
SilverSneakers’ list of participating health plans changes over time. For example, the parent company, Tivity Health, Inc., dropped some plans around 2016 while it redefined its mission and restructured. In 2020, eight new health plans will offer SilverSneakers.
If you have a preferred gym or fitness studio, ask if they partner with SilverSneakers. You can also check with your Medicare provider for options.
Look for access within your Medicare Advantage plan. The best time to do so is when you enroll in a new plan or review an existing one during the annual open enrollment period between October 15 and December 7. You can also make SilverSneakers one of the criteria for selecting your Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan.