Older adults may go back to the gym, but virtual will also be their go-to.
After more than three months of sheltering-in-place, states are starting to re-open—albeit with varying levels of restrictions—and most gyms and fitness facilities are opening their doors as well.
Yet for Medicare Advantage plans who are looking for ways to keep their members healthy and safe, encourage physical activity and social engagement, while at the same time control costs that are expected to rise post-COVID, preparing for the next few months and a return to a more normal way of life is top of mind
A Risky Population
While older adults are considered a high-risk population for COVID-19 infections simply because of their age, those who also have chronic health conditions have an even greater risk. On top of that, between stay-at-home orders, and social distancing rules, many older adults are isolated and experiencing loneliness—which could lead to an even greater negative downstream effect on their mental health and activity levels. With talk of a possible second wave in the fall and a timeline of a vaccine uncertain, now is the time for health plans to find effective solutions for physical activity and social connection to keep their members as healthy as possible.
2/3 Seniors Will Continue Taking Live Fitness Classes Post-COVID-19
To better understand the current sentiments of older adults, we have conducted SilverSneakers Pulse surveys every week since mid-March. Between 500 and 4,500 members have answered questions around issues such as isolation, emotional health, fitness, and video capabilities.
One of the most surprising, but significant findings, was that although members are at home, they’re still active. In fact, 93% of members were still participating in some form of exercise. What’s more, 84% reported that they had participated in live exercise classes since the onset of COVID-19, compared to only 29% who did before the current crisis.
Digital solutions have become an effective way for older adults to stay active outside of the gym and a way to feed their desire for social connection. It’s also something 68% say they plan to continue to stick with after fitness centers re-open.
While technology is often a barrier for many older adults, the pandemic has made them more technically savvy or at the very least, less apprehensive about it. Whether it was for a telehealth visit, church, a club, or to connect with family, friends and caregivers, older adults quickly took to video and streaming platforms.
In fact, 67% said they are either somewhat more, or much more, comfortable using video capabilities now compared to before COVID-19. When asked what they liked most about it, the top three reasons were the ability to visually interact with others, feeling more connected than telephone, email, or text, and the convenience factor.
The Future Of Senior Fitness
While COVID-19 has changed our world in significant and profound ways, it will also change the way older adults approach fitness and connect with others.
For starters, there is a season in every area of the country that because of the weather, people will be forced indoors. Yet if older adults are apprehensive or don’t feel safe going to the gym, they’ll rely on virtual fitness solutions.
They’ll also be paying attention to peak times and may change their normal routine to avoid crowds at the gym. Wearing masks may also be required depending on the location however, it can be prohibitive, uncomfortable, and difficult to fully engage in higher intensity activity. Additionally, should there be a second wave of the virus where they live, it’s unlikely that they will venture out.
Suffice to say, the new normal for senior fitness will include virtual only, or a hybrid of virtual and the gym.
How We’re Supporting Older Adults Through COVID-19
We’ve known for years that as an increasing amount of older adults age into Medicare every year, there would be a need for virtual fitness solutions. We were already headed in that direction, but in the wake of COVID-19, we quickly pivoted and launched SilverSneakers Live and SilverSneakers FLEX virtual live classes.
While we already had SilverSneakers OnDemand and the SilverSneakers Go App, video alone doesn’t provide the same type of engagement and connection that live classes do. However, live classes combined with our other digital fitness solutions, as well as Facebook Live classes, have allowed a high-touch approach to fitness and social engagement. Members have a myriad of solutions that are easily accessible and allow them to stay focused and create new routines.
How To Prepare For The New Normal of Senior Fitness
For Medicare Advantage plans that are currently looking for ways to keep their members healthy, safe, and socially engaged, it’s vital that they prepare now for the new normal of senior fitness. Virtual solutions are just as—if not more—valuable as classes in fitness facilities and will play a key role in preventing and managing chronic health conditions, improving health outcomes and lowering costs.
At Tivity Health we have been intensely focused on finding ways to keep our SilverSneakers members engaged in fitness while staying safe at home.
To learn more about opportunities to help your senior population stay active, contact us today.