Back in September, I wrote about free gym memberships that are part of many Medicare Advantage plans. Yesterday I had lunch at the Tucson Racquet and Fitness Club, which is one of the clubs seniors can join for free if they enroll in certain Advantage plans. I learned that while free memberships are attractive, many seniors are willing to pay to stay fit.
I talked with the club’s Program Director, Renee Sitter, who told me aerobics and fitness classes are very popular with members who are over 65. Renee gave me a list of 40+ classes in which many seniors participate: Water aerobics; Tai Chi; Pilates; Yoga; and Zumba, which is a cardio workout to salsa music. Belly dancing is the latest addition to a long list of classes offered at the club as part of the fitness membership.
Renee said many older members make the club part of their daily routine, taking one or more classes and then having lunch at the club restaurant. The club becomes the center of their social life, so I guess you could say they stay fit physically, mentally, and socially. Sounds like fun.
Free gym memberships offered through Medicare Advantage plans have been the target of criticism, but I think this is sorely misplaced. As it turns out, this benefit only costs the plans a few dollars per enrollee each month. The minority of Medicare Advantage plan enrollees who use the gym benefit are supported by the majority who don’t use the benefit. This is how most insurance works, whether it is health insurance, dental insurance, or gym membership insurance – everybody pays into the system while a minority uses the services.
For seniors who use the free gym memberships (and those who pay), it is clear they stay healthier than the far-too-many couch potatoes. With obesity, diabetes, and heart disease so widespread in America, the government should be encouraging people to stay fit and stay healthy.
So I heartily agree with those who say, “Don’t touch my (free) gym membership!”