Evidence reveals that social isolation can hinder good health, according to the National Council on Aging. Older adults are at increased risk because they are more likely to live alone, have experienced loss of family or friends, or struggle with chronic illness or hearing loss.
This puts older adults at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
In Pinellas County, 26% of residents are age 65 and older. That’s a lot of people who may be struggling with loneliness and poor health.
The good news is, programs like the SilverSneakers® Fitness Program offered by YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg at Lealman Exchange can combat both.
SilverSneakers® is an innovative health exercise and wellness program that helps older adults live healthy, active lifestyles. The program offers a variety of physical activity while offering opportunities to make new friends and connections. In addition to group exercise classes, our senior programming also features fun social events, group outings and health education seminars.
“The benefits of exercise in preventing or managing chronic conditions are well-documented,” says Kieran Gabel, Director of Community Health for YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. “But it goes much further than that. It can also bolster immunity, reduce mortality and keep brains young.”
SilverSneakers® Program instructors are made up of people of all ages. But they always have two things in common: they are trained in fitness for seniors, and they’ll support you on your exercise journey.
Gabel adds that having a reason to get out of the house and make social connections are also a big benefit of the SilverSneakers® Program. “People generally are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships can help them live longer, healthier lives. But as we age, it is often harder to find those connections.”
At the Y, seniors regularly get together for pot lucks, to hear speakers, or take outings into the community.
“This place is filled with kindness, smiles, and caring people who come for therapeutic reasons, but who have also formed a family here,” says Gabel. “Some have lost loved ones, but all have found new friends to love.”