MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – While the pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, older adults have been especially hard hit by both the virus and the loss of social and physical activity.
That’s now changing as restrictions are lifted and programs like Silver Sneakers can welcome participants back to class.
For over 25 years, the program has improved the lives of millions of older Americans, including a loyal group at Rise Fitness in Miami Lakes, who struggled when classes were cancelled for several months last year.
“I tried to do some exercise using the TV, but wasn’t the same -- no,” Maggie Cruz, 69, said.
Marvin Smith, 74, said his physical health suffered.
“I sat at home for about three months and did absolutely nothing, and one day I went out to the market and dropped my wallet and it seemed like it took me five minutes to reach down and pick it up,” Smith said.
The fitness program was started back in 1992 to help seniors become more active and independent and reduce the risk of illness.
“I’ve seen people go off their diabetes medication, their high blood pressure medication, I’ve had students who couldn’t even walk who are walking now,” said instructor Sabrina Stokes.
Alberta Chandler, now 90, has been coming here for the past 15 years.
“This is my life line, I don’t think I could walk if I didn’t come here. If I miss a day, I can feel it the next day,” Chandler said.
Cruz, one of the newer members of the class, joined in 2019 after noticing pain in her arms and legs.
“All of the pain went away. It’s amazing, I feel so happy,” she said.
The focus is on movements designed to safely increase agility, mobility, strength and balance.
“Usually my students are from 65, you just met a 90-year-old, I’ve had people as old as 102 in my class,” Stokes said.
“I really look forward to being here every day and seeing people in the class and our instructor, I mean, this is just one big happy family,” Smith added.
The Silver Sneakers program is available at more than 13,000 gyms and fitness centers across the country and cost is covered by most Medicare and private insurance policies.