What is Silver Sneakers: Eligibility, Cost, & More

Written by 
Katee Fletcher
Reviewed by 
Kimberly Fisher, APN
Article at a glance
  • Silver Sneakers is a health and fitness program designed for those 65 years and older and is often included in Medicare Advantage plans.

  • The Silver Sneakers program provides a variety of classes in many different areas throughout the United States in addition to gym access across the country, online classes, workshops, and more.

  • Eligibility requirements for Silver Sneakers are similar to the requirements for standard Medicare. Most adults over 65 are eligible, however, the program may or may not be included in their Medicare Advantage plan.

  • Cost is simple when it comes to a membership for Silver Sneakers but enrollment can be tricky. Learn more below about membership costs and how to enroll.

Senior Meditation

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week and two muscle-strengthening activities a week. The reason this amount of activity is recommended is because proper exercise and diet have been positively correlated to improved mood, better health, and greater life expectancy. A study by Harvard Medical School even noted that exercise is an insurance policy for your heart.”

When specifically noting the benefits of the Silver Sneakers program (occasionally labeled the SilverSneakers” program), a study published by the National Library of Medicine (NIH) states that older adults participating in Silver Sneakers had better physical and mental component scores, self-rated health statuses, and fewer physically and mentally unhealthy days than those not enrolled. Encouraging seniors’ access to physical activity, mental health workshops, and social interaction is the key reason as to why Silver Sneakers is known for being so beneficial for seniors’ health and wellbeing.

To learn more about the benefits of exercise, visit this source.

What is Silver Sneakers?

With over 15,000 participating fitness locations, Silver Sneakers is one of the top health and fitness programs designed for adults 65 and older. With participating Medicare supplement insurance plans, a Silver Sneakers membership is available at no extra cost, inviting seniors to take advantage of over 80 different class types that will benefit their wellbeing. It’s important to note that the Silver Sneakers program is privately operated, so it is not included in standard Medicare programs. However, most supplemental Medicare plans, such as Medigap (MedSupp) plans or Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, include a Silver Sneakers membership as an added benefit.

Additional aetna MA plan benefits

What’s Included in the Silver Sneakers Program?

A wide variety of perks are available to Silver Sneakers’ members such as all-inclusive gym access, class passes, nutrition workshops, and more. The Silver Sneakers program boasts that they offer over 50 diverse classes a week, providing something for everyone.”

Gym Access

With over 15,000 participating gyms and community centers throughout the United States, members have access to cardio equipment, strength equipment, and various amenities.

  • Cardio Equipment: While equipment differs from gym to gym, most participating centers include treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and other machines that encourage cardio.

  • Strength Equipment: The majority of participating centers will include weights, strength machines, resistance bands, and other equipment that promotes strength training.

  • Amenities: Many participating locations include amenities like walking tracks, pools, and more.

Exercise Classes

As we age, exercise can become increasingly difficult or less exciting to participate in. This is why the Silver Sneakers program includes a wide range of activities and fitness classes. Not to mention, Silver Sneakers diversifies how they provide classes, e.g., they offer in-person classes (indoor and outdoor), online classes through Zoom, and classes or guides through their fitness app. Exercise classes are available multiple times throughout the day, offering flexibility in scheduling. The workout classes conducted in these forums include but are not limited to:

  • Yoga

  • Tai Chi

  • Water Aerobics

  • Cardio Classes

  • Strength Classes

  • Boot Camp

  • Zumba

  • Group Training

  • Outdoor Classes or Group Activities

  • Recreational Sports Teams

The majority of classes, if not all, provide seniors with equipment to aid them throughout the workout or modified exercises to do if needed or desired.

Workshops

Centering more on the mental health and wellbeing side of adult healthcare, Silver Sneakers also offers live workshops in-person, online, or through their fitness app. Certain workshops that seniors can access include but are not limited to:

  • Nutrition as We Age

  • The Happiness Effect

  • Balance Builder

Who is Eligible?

The eligibility criteria for Silver Sneakers is similar to the requirements for a standard Medicare plan, i.e., one must be 65 and older (unless they are eligible for Medicare due to disability), living in the United States, and enrolled in a supplemental Medicare plan that offers the Silver Sneakers program.

To discover more information about eligibility, a patient should contact their Medicare plan provider to see if Silver Sneakers is included in their benefits. The Silver Sneakers program also provides an eligibility tool that makes it easy for Medicare beneficiaries to see if they qualify.

Original Medicare & Silver Sneakers 

Since Silver Sneakers is privately operated, it is not offered as a benefit through the federal Medicare program. However, if a Medicare enrollee wants access to a Silver Sneakers membership, they are able to sign up by enrolling in a participating MA or Medigap plan.

MA Plans & Silver Sneakers

Medicare Advantage plans, otherwise known as Medicare Part C, will often cover a Silver Sneakers membership as an added benefit. Common MA plan providers include but are not limited to Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Anthem Blue Cross. If a patient is unsure about whether or not a membership is included in the MA plan benefits, they should contact their insurance provider or a licensed health insurance agency. If a patient is looking to enroll in a MA or Medigap plan that includes a Silver Sneakers benefit, they should use the government’s Medicare Advantage plan comparison tool. Using the plan comparison tool can help enrollees uncover what benefits are included in each MA plan to decipher which one they want.

Cost of Silver Sneakers

Select participating Medicare Advantage plans cover the cost of a Silver Sneakers membership. If an enrollee is eligible for a Silver Sneakers membership and the membership is included as a benefit in their supplemental Medicare plan, they pay no extra cost. The only costs included are the standard monthly Part B premium and MA plan premium because the Silver Sneakers benefit is linked to participating MA plans free-of-charge.

How to Enroll

To enroll in a plan that offers a Silver Sneakers membership, Medicare beneficiaries must enroll in a participating MA or Medigap plan during their initial enrollment period or special enrollment period. If they are already enrolled in standard Medicare and are looking to change to an MA plan, they may do so during open enrollment. If they are already enrolled in standard Medicare and are looking to add a Medigap plan, they may do so during general enrollment. 

To learn more about Medicare’s enrollment periods, visit this source.

Which Insurance Companies Cover Silver Sneakers?

Health insurance companies vary depending on where beneficiaries live. However, common insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans include Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Anthem Blue Cross. To find out if a beneficiary has a Silver Sneakers membership included in their MA plan, they should speak with a licensed insurance provider. To locate and enroll in an MA plan that includes a Silver Sneakers membership, beneficiaries should use the Medicare Advantage plan comparison tool.


Note: Seeking out licensed insurance agent support is the best method to understand exactly what benefits are offered in many Medicare Advantage plans. One’s insurance company will be able to break down any and all components and aspects included in various affordable medicare plans.


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