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Study on 27,000 Americans Shows SilverSneakers Program Keeps Medicare Advantage Members Healthier, More Active and Independent

SilverSneakers Solution Addresses Myriad of Challenges Facing America’s Aging Population

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr. 11, 2013-- According to findings from a three-year study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Population Health Management, the SilverSneakers fitness program is an effective approach to improving seniors’ physical and mental health. One of the study’s most significant findings was from a multiyear analysis that suggests the program helps to slow or may even reverse the declining health of older Americans. Several study measures indicate that SilverSneakers participants’ health and abilities are declining at a significantly slower rate than similar Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries who do not participate in SilverSneakers.

The breakthrough study shows older adults who participate in SilverSneakers are healthier, higher functioning and more independent, when compared with similar adults enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who do not participate in the SilverSneakers program. The research, conducted on 5,586 SilverSneakers participants and a matched group of 22,344 other Medicare Advantage beneficiaries for comparison, demonstrates SilverSneakers participants perform better relative to non-SilverSneakers participants in simple but important activities of daily living, such as bathing, walking, climbing stairs, dressing, eating, getting in or out of chairs and using the restroom.

“The results of this study highlight the promise as well as urgency for a national redefinition of our expectations for older age – one that encourages individuals, families and communities to invest in our future health and well-being through good nutrition, exercise, social interaction and community support and involvement,” said Joseph Coughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab. He went on to comment, “Community-based solutions, such as SilverSneakers, represent a realistic, cost-saving and engaging strategy for older Americans to maintain their health and independence, improving the quality of their lives and their well-being, as well as all those who care about them.”

The study also clearly illustrates:

  • SilverSneakers members report significantly less decline in health status and emotional health over three years
  • SilverSneakers members have fewer social and activity/work limitations
  • SilverSneakers members reduced their disability levels during the study, while the comparison group have increased disability levels
  • SilverSneakers members who exercise more frequently demonstrate significantly better trends in all assessed measures (i.e., Health Status, Functioning—Climbing Stairs, Work or Activity Limitations because of Health) relative to members who exercise less frequently

“Our senior population is increasing rapidly, which, of course, spotlights the challenge of meeting the healthcare needs of today’s and future retirees,” said Mary R. Grealy, President of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of chief executives from the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations. “This study, and the success of the SilverSneakers program, underscores the importance of not just maintaining seniors’ health, but actually improving it. Understanding the impact SilverSneakers is having on its participants should lead us toward a national conversation on how to enable older Americans to elevate their well-being, maintain their independence and, in so doing, lessen long-term care costs.”

Studies demonstrate that one of the major economic challenges for the U.S. healthcare system is that Americans are living longer lives than ever before, but with more chronic diseases. Just under a decade ago, seniors accounted for only 12% of the American population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but by 2050, that figure is expected to grow to 21%.

“Our evaluation of SilverSneakers shows that the program can serve to improve seniors’ quality of life and reduce the burden associated with declining health and capabilities,” said Elizabeth Rula, PhD, co-author of the study and Principle Investigator of Healthways Center for Health Research. “With the aging of baby boomers, our conclusions support that SilverSneakers can positively influence the health and extend the ability of seniors to function independently without the burden of disability. SilverSneakers does not just provide access to a gym; it fosters and sustains engagement within an environment of social support through classes that cater to the needs of seniors, such as improving strength and balance with a focus on fall prevention.”

Previous studies have linked SilverSneakers participation to fewer hospital admissions, lower health care costs and decreased risk of depression. Using data collected from annual member surveys, this new study examines the impact of the SilverSneakers program on the physical and emotional health activities and daily living activities of participating seniors. Compared to earlier research, this study looks at a new set of outcomes and uses a national sample of similar non-participating seniors as a comparison group for valid evaluation. These new findings reveal how participation benefits participants in their daily lives and can contribute to improving their overall well-being.

Multi-media offerings of the study’s outcomes can be found at Healthways website.

About Healthways

Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) is the largest independent global provider of well-being improvement solutions. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans, communities and government entities. We provide highly specific and personalized support for each individual and their team of experts to optimize each participant’s health and productivity and to reduce health-related costs. Results are achieved by addressing longitudinal health risks and care needs of everyone in a given population. The Company has scaled its proprietary technology infrastructure and delivery capabilities developed over 30 years and now serves approximately 40 million people on four continents. Learn more at www.healthways.com.

About SilverSneakers

Founded in 1993 and serving more than 10 million eligible members, SilverSneakers offers convenient access to more than 15,000 participating fitness and wellness facilities nationwide. Using proven methodologies based upon more than 16 years of science and outcomes, SilverSneakers engages participants in active behavior change through access to a variety of physical activity venues and senior-specific programming that incorporates physical fitness and social experiences. Learn more at www.SilverSneakers.com.

Source: Healthways

Healthways
Kelly Motley, 615-614-4984
kelly.motley@healthways.com