Silver Sneakers and Boomers’ Best Medicare Free Fitness Benefit or Not

mature-african-american-woman-working-outIf you have not heard of Silver Sneakers, join the club.  You will want to join the Silver Sneakers club, as I did, when I heard about it.   I was bemoaning to a friend that I was going to spend an extended period up north and would not have access to a gym at a time I had to really concentrate on losing a few pounds in preparation for a family celebration, as if who among us does not have to lose a few pounds.  As a member of Silver Sneakers, with her membership card, available to those of us who qualify for Medicare, she said she goes to L.A. Fitness where ever she is and is able to access all of their classes for free, including yoga and Zumba, which I love.

According to the Silver Sneakers website, Silver Sneakers is a free fitness program for seniors on Medicare, including unlimited access to every participating gym and fitness center in the network, a gym membership at more than 14,000 locations with unrestricted access to every location. All amenities are included: weights, treadmills, pools and fitness classes for all abilities.

Wow!  This is amazing. . . .or not.

It appears that just because you qualify for Medicare, you do not automatically qualify for Silver Sneakers. Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, does not cover any of the costs associated with gym memberships or fitness programs. Researching further on Google, I found that Medicare Advantage plans may cover Silver Sneakers and may provide this free benefit.

You can check on line on the Silver Sneakers website if your existing Medicare supplemental plan covers this free benefit.  I did, and the answer was “maybe,” depending on the specific plan with my provider.  I did not want to research further on line, as it required entering more information than I considered prudent to share, wondering if the information would be sold or I would get more solicitations for supplemental policies than I want or need.

I immediately called our supplemental health care provider.  Our specific policy coverage does not cover Silver Sneakers.  I do not want to switch and only need a temporary fix, so I looked at AARP, of which I am a member to see what they recommend.  I love the article I found, “Stretch Your Exercise Dollar: 5 tips to cut down on workout costs,” by Jean Chatzky, AARP The Magazine, Dec. 2014/Jan. 2015.  I love watching Jean Chatzky on the Today Show, and her advice, as always is sound and worth reading at this link.

Her fourth recommendation is to consider apps.  When I clicked on the link, thinking I would find a list of apps, instead I found an article, posted on 05/09/2014, “What Health Apps Tell Outsiders About You,” with a serious warning for all of us:

“Apps also have privacy risks. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse last year surveyed 43 health and fitness apps, concluding that many shared customer data – often unencrypted – with outside parties without the consumers’ knowledge. Paid apps offer more privacy protections than free apps do, though the group says consumers should not assume their data is confidential.”

Of course, there are AARP Medicare Supplement Plans.  I wonder if those cover Silver Sneakers?  Since I am pleased with my supplemental plan, I have not checked, however, the next issue is whether it is worth it to switch to a plan that covers Silver Sneakers, if free fitness access is important, and whether the cost differential is worth the trouble.

I investigated L.A. Fitness first to find out their costs.  If you have a friend who is a member of L.A. Fitness, adding you as a guest will add $20 a month to their membership.  Maybe two friends can do this together and split the cost with the extra $20?    LA Fitness prices range slightly depending on your current location. A lot of gyms will let you try them once for free, but if you are willing to pay for only one day at L.A. Fitness, the cost is approximately $15.  One day is not helpful.

Then I remembered that Grandpa has a saying which serves us all well: “If you do not ask, you do not get.”  We are going to be with our grandchildren for a month.  I called the local L.A. Fitness near their home and spoke with the manager.  For $50 cash (no credit cards) each, he is offering us a full one month senior membership, giving us a wonderful discount even off their regular senior rate of $75 a month!  We can go to classes, fitness, and have full access.  Yes, L.A. Fitness is worth looking into.

So many of us Boomers spend extended time with our grandchildren or maybe at a second vacation location.  We have options to keep up fitness.  Yes, Silver Sneakers is worth a phone call to your supplemental insurance provider.  Yes, L.A. Fitness is worth looking into.  We may not qualify for Silver Sneakers, but there are other options.  I never liked the use of “silver” to refer to us Boomers who are “forever young” anyway.








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