A group of motivated senior citizens, known as the SilverSneakers, shatter stereotypes and answer fitness challenges during an exercise class designed just for them. They meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Purdue University Northwest (formerly Purdue University Calumet) Fitness Center and exercise to improve muscular strength and range of movement.

Tabitha Stills, the Purdue Northwest Hammond fitness center manager, teaches the SilverSneakers Classic class with John Bobalik, director of fitness at Purdue Northwest. The program began in 2008, Stills says, and is important because participants can improve their overall health and well-being, maintain independence, be able to perform daily activities easily, manage weight, control diabetes, sleep better, and improve longevity, blood pressure, cholesterol and bone density.

“Plus, what a great way for all to feel connected, not only with themselves but with others,” she says. “The program is a family that continues to grow within the Purdue Northwest Fitness Center family.”

That family vibe has also stretched beyond the exercise mats. A few months ago, a SilverSneakers member announced that she was going to wear red on Fridays to honor active and inactive military men and women. Her fellow members also started to wear red. Purdue University Northwest approved their request to order red shirts with the SilverSneakers and Purdue Northwest logo, which have now become everyone’s Friday attire.

SilverSneakers membership is essentially free for those who qualify; many participants might not be financially able to participate in a regular exercise routine if they had to pay, Stills says. Eligible seniors are those who have Medicare with a qualifiable supplemental insurance plan. The program is covered in the supplemental plan, she says.

“PNW serves as a site for those who qualify to come and exercise for free. Individuals have the option to attend the class and can use any of the facility during hours of operation," she says.

Participants say the class is fun and makes them feel better. They also like hanging out with their peers while working on their health.

“For us staff, it's a wonderful thing to hear others say how thankful they are that Purdue is here for them," Stills says.