Penny Phaneuf, 68, has been going to Gold’s Gym in East Greenwich for three years but this year, she’s only paying $5 a month.
Retired and in good health, Phaneuf is taking advantage of one of two programs offered by health insurers. At Gold’s Gym, it’s Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s BlueCHIP “Living Fit” program for Medicare members that subsidizes the cost of joining a gym. Gold’s membership plans range from $19.95 to $49.95, said Gold Gym Manager Richard Brodeur.
“We’re getting people that never would have joined a gym,” said Brodeur. “They see the value in it. They’re trying it and they like it.”
This year, the price dropped from a $15 copay to $5 for Medicare members aged 65 and older, and gyms and YMCAs whose patrons are taking advantage say that the BlueCHIP program and UnitedHealthcare’s comparable Silver Sneakers plan have boosted membership at their facilities. The Silver Sneakers plan has a $15 copay.
“I would go to a gym anyway, but this just makes it much more affordable,” said Phaneuf, who lives in Coventry.
Participation in gyms and YMCA programs by people 65 and older has been rising in the first few months of 2014, based in part on the availability of these programs, boosting business, owners and managers say.
Joseph Penrose, owner of 10 Anytime Fitness clubs in New England, including three in Rhode Island, said his gyms have been active in both the BlueCHIP and Silver Sneakers programs for about three years. The Rhode Island facilities are in Richmond, Narragansett and Smithfield.
“It’s offered our business to a different demographic that wouldn’t normally look into using a fitness facility,” said Penrose. “It’s just made that generation a little more aware of the benefits of working out. For people on fixed incomes, it’s made the investment a little more feasible for them. If you can have your insurance company subsidize it, it takes the excuse out of it.”