Coberley, C, Rula, EY, Pope, JE
Population Health Management, 2011


Given the increasing prevalence of obesity and lifestyle-related chronic diseases in the United States and abroad, senior wellness initiatives have emerged as a means to stem the troubling trends that threaten the wellbeing and the economy of many nations. Seniors are an important demographic for such programs because this age group is growing, both as a proportion of the overall population and as a contributor to health care cost escalation. The goal of senior wellness programs is to improve the overall health of seniors through a variety of approaches, including increased physical activity, better nutrition, smoking cessation, and support of other healthy behaviors. Outcome metrics of particular interest are the effects of participation in these programs on health care utilization and expenditures. This review describes several studies that demonstrate reduced inpatient admissions and health care costs, as well as improved health-related quality of life as a direct result of participation in large-scale senior wellness programs. Programs that effectively engage seniors in, and change behavior as a direct result of, participation provide strong evidence that health improvements and decreased health care expenditures can be achieved. However, solutions to the challenges of broader enrollment and sustained participation in these programs would increase the impact of their outcomes and health-related benefits.

Effectiveness of Health and Wellness Initiatives for Seniors

Key Takeaways:

  • This review of the literature evaluated the impact of various wellness programs for Medicare beneficiaries on health care costs, utilization, behavior change, health status and quality of life
  • Fitness programs, including SilverSneakers, and a workplace wellness program demonstrated significant health care cost savings for participants
  • Reduced hospital utilization was a common outcome across evaluated senior fitness and wellness programs
  • Fitness and coaching programs had significant outcomes in other important areas including improved health-related quality of life, gait speed, self-care activities and health behaviors
  • Regular and sustained engagement were key factors to program success