Health Tech

SilverSneakers Marks 30 Years of Keeping Seniors Fit and Connected

Few brands survive 30 years and even fewer maintain an NPS score – which measures the likelihood that someone would recommend the program to a friend – that is significantly higher than many leading national retail brands. SilverSneakers, with an NPS score of 83, started when a daughter saw a gap in healthcare resources available to her ailing father. 
Today, SilverSneakers is the nation’s leading fitness program for older adults, partnering with more than 70 health plans, making it one of the most trusted senior fitness programs in the country.

SilverSneakers was started by founder Mary Swanson in 1992. When her dad survived a heart attack, she understood the power of fitness to help him recover but was frustrated by the lack of exercise opportunities designed specifically for seniors and people living with chronic conditions. Mary started the SilverSneakers classic program, originally a chair-based fitness program, that grew to 15 locations in Phoenix and Tuscon Arizona by 1996.

Over the years, SilverSneakers grew through a combination of changes in Medicare, growth in health plan clients and a steady increase of fitness locations in the SilverSneakers network. In 2004, SilverSneakers Circuit launched as a second signature class and was offered at 1,000 network locations nationwide. That same year, SilverSneakers saw its health plan partnerships grow to 41 plans in 29 states – up from 15 plans in a dozen states. In 2006, SilverSneakers launched a yoga program and partnered with Medicare Advantage. Over the next two years, the organization expanded from 1,000 to more than 10,000 network locations.

Today, SilverSneakers is stronger than ever and the country’s most experienced provider of senior fitness programming. With 2 million accounts, partnerships with Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and group retiree plans have propelled the organization’s popularity. SilverSneakers takes very seriously the responsibility of providing excellent service for its members, clients and partners.

“Our 30th anniversary is a celebration of the many individuals and organizations who have contributed to the success of SilverSneakers over the past three decades,” said Richard Ashworth, president and CEO, Tivity Health. “Our commitment is to continue to build this brand and our expertise in a way that will provide new and innovative programs to support healthy aging well into the future.”

SilverSneakers has always been much more than a senior fitness program. It is a community that fosters wellness, purpose and social connection. Beyond SilverSneakers, the organization also has launched partnerships with GetSetUp, a virtual learning platform providing mental enrichment opportunities for seniors, and the Stitch social community for people 50 and over.

SilverSneakers understands that health goes beyond physical wellness and includes social, mental and emotional components. By remaining committed to its mission of holistic wellness for seniors, SilverSneakers continues to navigate a rapidly changing healthcare landscape by tapping into three decades worth of understanding of what seniors want and need. SilverSneakers uses ongoing surveys to monitor preferences and behaviors, and members feel understood because the organization makes changes and launches new offerings based on that feedback.

"Our SilverSneakers fitness benefits make it easy and affordable for UPMC for Life Medicare Advantage members to stay active and focus on their wellness," said Angela Perri, CMO for UPMC Health Plan. "With free, unlimited memberships to local participating fitness centers, our members can take advantage of so many benefits including access to trained instructors, amenities such as swimming pools, SilverSneakers On-Demand™ workout videos, and many more."

Just as physical flexibility is critical to personal fitness, organizational agility has been key to the prosperity of SilverSneakers. While its mission has remained the same, SilverSneakers has innovated to meet members’ needs as the health and fitness landscape expands and changes. That has included broadening its virtual solutions, adjusting to meet dynamic fitness trends and – perhaps most importantly – listening to its members.

SilverSneakers accelerated its shift to virtual classes in 2020, logging more than 2 million visits to more than 3,000 online classes. In a recent survey, 88% of members who use these offerings reported that they will continue to use them, along with in-person classes. Today, SilverSneakers members regularly connect with a network of more than 22,000 fitness locations nationwide, along with thousands of virtual, instructor-led live classes each month and an on-demand library of 300 class recordings.

With its strong legacy, ongoing innovation and robust community, SilverSneakers is thriving. Ultimately, members want to be healthier, and health plans want to reduce costs. Data proves that SilverSneakers achieves both. According to a 2021 comprehensive scientific study conducted by Avalere Health (an Inovalon company), total average healthcare expenses were reduced by 16% for SilverSneakers participants compared to non-participating Medicare Advantage members.

Members are not only healthier – they are happy with the program. An overwhelming 95% of SilverSneakers participants reported being in good health compared to a national benchmark of 75%. A significant 65% of participants said SilverSneakers was important in their health plan decision-making process, while 58% said they would switch to another health plan if their plan no longer offered SilverSneakers.

Big-picture, happier and healthier consumers result in lower health plan costs for everyone. As consumers look to health plans to include fitness benefits, SilverSneakers maintains its position as a leader in the sector, with the experience and outcomes to prove it.

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.