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Silver Sneakers classroom lures dedicated exercisers
Kay Williams leads her Silver Sneakers class through a series of cardio exercises Wednesday at the Jefferson Parks and Recreation Department’s gym. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

Without fail, 25 devotees gather Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings in the Jefferson Parks and Recreation’s gym.

After collecting a Hula Hoop, resistance band, rubber ball and hand weights, they pile the supplies in chairs and then gather around to catch up on each other’s lives.

Although they come to socialize, the main reason for their trip is the Silver Sneakers exercise class.

"I started coming about two years ago after my husband passed away," said Norene Engman, a Jefferson resident. "I thought it would be a good way to meet new people."

Silver Sneakers is an exercise class that is geared toward older residents. While the class costs $3 per session — less than most gym memberships — for some participants, the cost is even lower.

"For participants who are at least 65 years old and are a member of participating health care plans with Healthways, they don’t pay anything," said Kay Williams, the Silver Sneakers class instructor. "Their plans pay for them to come to the classes and any amenities that are offered."

Each session lasts about 45 minutes and covers a broad spectrum of exercises.

"We offer muscle strength and range of motion, or MSROM, classes and cardio circuit classes," Williams said. "MSROM works on your muscle strength and balance and coordination. Cardio works on building a strong heart and can help to (decrease problems associated with diabetes)."

While some participants started coming to the class as an outlet for socialization, others say they started coming because they were told to by their doctor; either way, they all seem to enjoy it. And why wouldn’t they when they get to work out while listening to music that makes the session seem more like a sock hop, than an exercise class?

"My doctor said I needed to come because I needed to start lifting weights, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it," said Fran Moreles, who joined the class in December. "We’re really like a big family here."

Even longtime members such as Gerda Vaca still find the class fun.

"My son saw an ad about the classes in the newspaper and said it would be good for me to get some exercise," said Vaca, who has been a Silver Sneakers class participant for nearly three years. "And I’ve been coming ever since then."

Besides being fun, the class also is convenient for residents outside of Jefferson.

"If we didn’t come here, we’d have to drive around 20 miles to get to the next facility," said Izetta Bradberry, who drives to Jefferson from Commerce with her husband, Bill.

Despite many people cutting extras out of their budgets as the economy continues to decline, Williams said she hasn’t seen class participation decline.

"We usually have between 25 and 28 participants at each class — give or take a few for doctor appointments or illness," she said. "If anything, we have new people showing up."