"Silversneakers": Keeping our seniors fit

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. Think about all the people you know who are over 65. Up to half of them suffer some kind of fall every year.

The lucky ones walk away with minor bruises. Others will require treatment, possibly surgery and months of rehabilitation, a process that puts many out of commission entirely. That's why preventing a fall in the first place is so important.

Don't underestimate chair aerobics. Eighty-three-year-old Gene Gross did at first. "I thought it was going to be real simple, maybe a little bit less than I was wanting, wanting more exercise. But I found out by the time we go through all of our different programs, it's really a good exercise."

And not just any exercise. These moves are inspired by everyday activities for a reason. Stephanie Harris, Health & Wellness Coordinator, explains, "It's more of a functional fitness class. I just want everyone to be able to do the things they've always been able to do. You know, as we age, we tend to lose some of the things that we used to be able to do."

Muscles get weaker, so does sensory input, like hearing and vision. Arthritis can tighten joints making it more difficult to walk. Add in ice or uneven pavement, and it's a recipe for a fall.

Dr. Kashif Iqbal, internal medicine, says, "Falls is the leading cause of injury in adults." He says when weight-bearing bones, like ankles and hips, are injured, older patients often lose their mobility and, therefore, their independence.

And exercise doesn't just strengthen the heart and other muscles, bones benefit, too. "Walking for about 15 to 30 minutes at a brisk pace gives you good exercise. If you can do that four or five times in a week, then that's considered adequate exercise," informs Dr. Kashif.

If arthritis makes walking too painful, that's when it's time to take a seat. Chair aerobics can be modified to fit anyone's fitness level.

Eighty-two-year-old June Gross says, "It helps me to get limbered up. It helps with everything really."

The downtown YMCA offers a "Silversneakers" class every Tuesday and Thursday. It's free for YMCA members and people over 65 who have the Medicare Advantage Plans provided by Humana and Anthem Insurance. Soon, the Y will be offering a "Silver Stretch" class.

For more information about the "Silversneakers" program, call the downtown YMCA at 426-6210 ext. 3710.