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Assessment of a Community-Based Exercise Program for Older Adults in a Mixed Rural/Urban Catchment Area

Abstract and Introduction


The purpose of our study was to understand the capacity of Silver Sneakers, a federally funded and community-based exercise program, to serve older adults (aged ≥65 years) in our mixed rural/urban catchment area of central Pennsylvania. We identified 139 registered Silver Sneakers program locations; of these, 18 were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We used questionnaires to interview Silver Sneakers program staff by telephone (n = 80 of 121, response rate of 66%). Most programs were offered by private gyms (52%). Fewer programs were in rural counties than in urban counties. Most facilities reported that membership was equally mixed by gender, and member retention strategies included program perks and promotion of Silver Sneakers as a Medicare benefit. Most (89%) programs were able to continue classes during the pandemic, in part by adapting to video platforms. Overall, Silver Sneakers programs offer a sustainable option to facilitate access to exercise programs and reduce barriers to physical activity among older adults in our catchment area.

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