By Andy Sheehan

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s the biggest free fitness program in the nation, offering unfettered access to gyms and health clubs to millions of seniors.

Retired commercial pilot Steve Skupien one of them.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Keeps you young.”
Skupien: “It does. It does. It definitely makes difference.”

Skupien and about 300 other seniors at Anytime Fitness in Murrysville are participants in Silver Sneakers, a health benefit offering seniors a pathway to fitness. But, suddenly, the program’s own future is in doubt.

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, citing financial strains and changing reimbursement rates, will no longer participate after Jan. 1, 2019, leaving seniors to look elsewhere.

Retired museum worker Pat Erdelsky calls that penny-wise and pound foolish.

“It would be ridiculous to cut it,” she says. “As long as you exercise, you are probably keeping yourself from having to go to the hospital.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Anytime Fitness still accepts Silver Sneakers, and has already signed up more than a dozen new members from the nearby Sampson YMCA.

“I’ve signed up about 15 members from the YMCA so far, as of last week, and this week is still young, so I’m sure I’ll get more,” said Elaine Fisher, the club manager.

Most gyms and health clubs in our region continue to honor the program; and while United HealthCare is dropping it in several states, Pennsylvania is not one of them. Highmark is still providing the benefit.

UPMC insurance is actually transitioning from its current Silver and Fit program into Silver Sneakers.

That’s all good news to Skupien in his own battle against aging.

“We’re just marking time, but you don’t have to give up early. You can keep fighting it as long as you can, so that’s my goal,” Skupien said.