The City of Miami Gardens has taken steps to engage its senior population in no-cost recreational programs.

By Cynthia A. Roby….
Healthways SilverSneakers, a fitness program designed for seniors 65 and older, will soon be available at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Center, 3000 NW 199th Street.

“My parents are senior citizens, and they have issues just like any other member of the senior population. I’m sensitive to that,” Miami Gardens City Councilman André Williams said of his reasons to dedicate the center as a SilverSneakers facility.

The SilverSneakers program, Williams added, “enables seniors to remain physically fit and pursue a healthy lifestyle at the recreational center.”

There are 2,000 eligible seniors within a two-mile radius of the center, Williams said, a number that also includes those in neighboring areas.

“We also have several active senior groups who, I feel, will take full advantage of the program,” he said.

The 56,000-square-foot city-owned facility offers a basketball court, athletic field and aquatic center. A fitness management program operates the fitness center which also offers aerobics classes and personal training. The cardio machines are all equipped with cable-ready television sets. Aerobics and other fitness classes are held in an exercise room with floor-to-ceiling mirrors adjacent to an outdoor garden which is visible from the room through the unobstructed full-length windows.

The SilverSneakers program is open to all Medicare recipients and those who are Medicare disabled, Williams explained. “You don’t have to be a resident to use the facility; you just have to be a part of the program.”

Seniors can sign up for the program through their insurance companies, Williams said. “They will then be issued a SilverSneakers card which they can use at the Betty T. Ferguson Complex or any designated SilverSneakers site.” Health plans offering the SilverSneakers card include AARP MedicareComplete® from SecureHorizons, Amerigroup, AvMed, CarePlus Health Plans, Inc., Health First Health Plans, HealthSpring, Humana, Physicians Health Choice, Physicians United Plan (PUP) and WellCare of Florida, Inc., according to the Healthways SilverSneakers Web site.

Benefits offered through the program include SilverSneakers classes designed exclusively for older adults who want to improve their strength, flexibility, balance and endurance; health education seminars and other events that promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle; member-only access to online support that can help seniors lose weight, quit smoking or reduce stress. The program also offers an opportunity to generate monies for the city, Williams explained. The insurance companies pay a rate ranging from three to four dollars per member visit. The cap is at $30 per month. “The seniors can visit the facility an unlimited number of times because the city is not charging them.”

Three packages will remain available for seniors whose insurance companies do not cover SilverSneakers or who don’t make the minimum number of gym visits: the $25 gold package for weekly brunches, four trips a month, workshops and full access to the center; the $15 silver package for weekly brunch, two trips and workshops; the $5 bronze package includes weekly brunch and workshops.

“We have a very actively engaged senior population in Miami Gardens,” said Williams. “I live a healthy lifestyle, and we should promote the same with our seniors.”

For more information on the SilverSneakers program, or to locate facilities nationwide, visit www.silversneakers. com

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