It’s nine in the morning but dark out, raining and it feels more like nine at night.
The gloom of this Friday morning isn’t reaching Denise Laster’s exercise class at Little Rock’s Pleasant Valley Church of Christ. Far from it. Standing at the front of the square-sized room with a mirror in front, Laster, wearing a bright pink T-shirt, calmly but firmly calls out instructions to her class — all fourteen students, many 80 years or older.
“Make sure you plant that foot like you are going downstairs!” said Laster.
Laster’s pupils dutifully follow along.
Staying Active and Social
This is the first of two exercise classes today at Pleasant Valley for Silver Sneakers, a nationwide program promoting physical and social activity for older adults. SilverSneakers classes like Laster’s take place practically every day in communities big and small around the country.
It is well established the benefits of routine physical exercise for most ages, but seniors in particular. Seniors such as Wanda Crow, 80, can’t hide her enthusiasm for her exercise outlet. It’s a rare event when Crow isn’t found at her place near the front of the class.
“We meet three times a week,” said Crow. “It’s 50 minutes of workout, and then we cool down for ten minutes. I love working out. This is a big part of my life.”
Designed for Seniors
The paces Laster puts the class through are designed for this age group. The session might see the class march in place or pull up one of the oversized rubber bands held down on the floor with a foot, Laster does note that when she took over the class several years ago, the exercises were done while sitting down. Laster got them up on their feet.
“I had a yearly physical in May and on the same day went to the cardiologist,” said Crow. “Both of those doctors told me I was in terrific shape. When they told me, well, my nose was up in the air as high as it could be. I mean, who wouldn’t feel that way hearing that?”
The appeal of SilverSneakers isn’t just physical. Even during the pandemic, Laster arranged for the class to meet outdoors on occasion.
Nancy Ward, 80, who retired from Acxiom and worked three years at the Clinton White House as a press office manager, estimates she’s been involved in SilverSneakers for five years.
“It’s been life-changing,” said Ward. “People my age deteriorate, and it helps physically, and it’s a social thing. You get to talk to different people and relate to people socially. This class is kind of like a big sorority. We care about each other, and if somebody gets sick, we send cards and help each other. That is a big part.”
SilverSneakers is a benefit for some Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicare plans. Want to see if you are eligible? Call the number on the back of you member ID card.