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The Daily Tar Heel

Silver Sneakers program discontinued at local YMCAs

The Healthways Silver Sneakers fitness program will be discontinued at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA, starting on Jan. 1 of next year.

Silver Sneakers is a national exercise program for active older adults available through certain insurance plans. With more than 13,000 partner locations at gyms, recreation centers and YMCAs across the country, Silver Sneakers is an option for seniors who wish to maintain an active lifestyle and build community with other members.

Chapel Hill YMCA branch was not the only center to discontinue Silver Sneakers — there have been many YMCAs across the country that have discontinued their relationship with Healthways, said Kim Grooms, branch executive director for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA.

“The Y continuously evaluates its program offerings and third-party agreements, and when the Healthways agreement was approaching renewal, we wanted to negotiate,” Grooms said. “After many attempts, we could not reach an amicable agreement.”

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA has about 500 Silver Sneakers members in their system, 280 of which are active users who utilize the program six times a month or more, Grooms said.

The YMCA does not differentiate between Silver Sneakers members and non-members, although certain classes are catered to seniors. 

After the Silver Sneakers discontinuation, all fitness classes and instructors will remain the same, although the classes with the “Silver Sneakers “ trademark will be renamed. In order for the participants to continue taking part in the classes, they will have to get a YMCA membership. 

Roger Hayes is a Silver Sneakers member at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA. He was informed by letter of the program’s discontinuation and also received a follow-up email.  

Hayes said he and his wife, Carol, have used the YMCA facility approximately 26 times this year.

“(Carol) has had some health issues with her heart that prevented us from going more,” said Hayes. “However, her cardiologist has said she is good to go now and encourages her to become more active. As she becomes more active in physical conditioning, so will I."

The YMCA offers discounted senior memberships at a monthly rate of $43.57 as well as a $110 joining fee.

“(The YMCA) is offering a meager reduction in the monthly rates for those of us impacted by this change in policy,” said Hayes.  “My wife and I could continue to go to the Y at a cost in 2016 for the family plan offered for $660 a year. However, this is an additional $660 we haven’t budgeted for and is a deal breaker for us.”

Hayes said he and his wife have decided to switch to the Orange County SportsPlex in Hillsborough once they can no longer go to the YMCA, with a goal to attend bi-weekly in 2016.

Along with the SportsPlex, there are more than 10 locations in the Chapel Hill area that are a part of Silver Sneakers.

Snap Fitness, located at 1848 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., is one such facility.

The gym has offered the program to seniors in the community for the five years it has been open, and 5 to 10 percent of all memberships are Silver Sneakers participants, said Snap Fitness manager Caleb Allen.

Similar to the Y, Snap Fitness offers a full membership to Silver Sneakers members.

Snap Fitness offers members 24/7 access as well as a corrective exercise specialist that can be particularly helpful for active seniors, said Allen.

Allen said he's noticed several new Silver Sneakers members that have joined Snap Fitness since leaving the YMCA. 

“We’ve already gotten maybe 10 (new members) from (the Y) so far, and I imagine we will get a few more,” Allen said.

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