(2021 SilverSneakers Member of the Year)
Margaret Masters regularly attended SilverSneakers workouts, Latin-inspired dance class and yoga at her location until the shutdown. The “Dancing Queen” wasn’t about to slow down, so as soon as SilverSneakers classes became available online, the technologically savvy Margaret was in! She’s been described as “a wonderful example of [growing] older actively and graciously,” “one of a kind … with a sassy attitude and zest for life,” “upbeat, encouraging and positive,” and “my greatest inspiration.” She even made a Zoom appearance one day after having surgery and returned to classes shortly after. “Full of energy and creativity,” Margaret has a featured role in some dance routines. She’s active in her community, still drives, helps “younger” friends with technology and is interested in everything. Her delightful spirit encourages everyone to be positive.
Long Beach, MS
Rebecca Bruner started working out with SilverSneakers online during the pandemic and “fell in love” with the program. When she hears a new person is joining the class, she welcomes them and answers questions. Rebecca says SilverSneakers, along with a change in diet, has helped her lose 60 pounds. She lives with physical challenges including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and being legally blind, and has made new friends through participating in the classes. “I am blessed to have found the SilverSneakers program and their instructors,” she says, adding that the instructors treat her like family. She currently works out six days a week and sometimes does as many as three to five classes a day! That’s dedication.
Jean Grimm gives her best every time she attends her SilverSneakers class. When her gym reopened after the COVID shutdown, Jean was the first member to show up for the first SilverSneakers class. Her dedication to returning to fitness spread like wildfire, and in no time, she had enlisted several seniors to join the SilverSneakers class. Rain, snow, sun or cloudy day, Jean is front and center in class, giving helpful tips to newcomers and motivating members coming out of COVID isolation. Jean’s outstanding dedication and friendly outlook on life inspire everyone at her gym, where she is known as a SilverSneakers superstar!
Frank Holbrook knows how it feels to be aging and thinking your body has given up on you. When he first heard about SilverSneakers and started going to the gym two years ago, he had “spent a lifetime avoiding organized exercise.” Today, Frank, who has had multiple surgeries including shoulder surgery and having a hip and both knees replaced, is “baffled” that people don’t work out all the time. He says he can’t believe how good it feels. He’s recruited his son and granddaughter to his gym so three generations work out together. As one who can now deadlift 280 lbs., he tells people who think they’re “too old” for the gym that he feels great!!
Paul Kuroski is described as “one of the friendliest, most bubbly people.” At last count, he was nearing his 800th day in a row at his gym. Until a year ago, he worked out on his own, doing cardio and weightlifting while mingling with everyone. After trying a SilverSneakers yoga class last October, he’s practically the spokesperson, telling everyone what great things yoga has done for him. Every week he shows off what he’s practiced between sessions. Paul is proving you can teach an old dog new tricks. Being active and flexible carries over into everyday life: He still does his own landscaping and redid his kitchen flooring. Paul is thankful for his gym and enjoys everything he does, every day.
Owen Mellor is known to his SilverSneakers classmates as the “SilverSneakers Sheriff” after wearing the badge from his former job as a real sheriff to class one day. Ever the jokester, Owen says he goes to SilverSneakers not just to exercise but to have fun, laugh and socialize. He’s helped many individuals get healthier through exercise and was instrumental in bringing SilverSneakers to his gym. One of the few men in his SilverSneakers class, Owen attends regularly, missing only during the Covid shutdown. Even a hip replacement hasn’t stopped Owen, who starts his days with workouts, works on his classic cars, attends car shows, and attends fundraisers all over the county.
Sue Prince’s “tenacity and positive attitude” have helped her achieve the healthy, happy life she enjoys today. She’s attended her gym for more than 10 years. When she fell and injured her hip five years ago, replacement surgery kept her out of the gym for six weeks. “Too long!” she said. She convinced her doctor to let her do physical therapy at the gym. He said do something every day, even if for 15 to 20 minutes. Sue still goes every day (#1 user every month!), and it’s paid off – her biological age is 15 years younger than her actual age. She loves her classes so much she got her SilverSneakers certification to teach during post-pandemic staff changes. She also loves encouraging new and longtime members to keep coming back and try new things.
Vivian Stancil exemplifies what hard work can do. “If something is too hard, I’m still going to work at it until I get it,” she says. “I love the challenge.” When Vivian was 50 years old, blind, 320 pounds, and afraid of the water, she took up swimming. A doctor had warned Vivian she wouldn’t make it to 60 without changing her lifestyle. She took that as a challenge. Swimming seemed like a viable option, and she kept going until she lost her fear – and more than 100 pounds. Then she signed up for the National Senior Games and started collecting medals. She was named a Humana Game Changer for her fierceness, dedication, and inspiration. When she’s not using her SilverSneakers benefit to stay healthy in the pool, Vivian runs a church prayer ministry and the Vivian Stancil Olympian Foundation, which offers free swimming lessons to low-income children. Her biggest fan is her husband of 50 years, Turner Stancil.
Patricia “Pat” Young always has a smile and a kind and encouraging word, and always welcomes new people to class. When Pat first started SilverSneakers, she had balance problems, wasn’t as active as she used to be, and took longer to do things. After a few months, she felt better. Then COVID hit and the gym closed. Pat tried to continue her class workouts at home “so I wouldn’t lose what I’d started to fix.” Now that the gym is open again, Pat attends class Monday, Wednesday and Friday and says, “I can help with more of the outdoor work, I have better balance, and I feel like a new person!” Her instructor is grateful for participants like Pat who “go above and beyond to encourage others and keep positively aging.”
- Always talk to you doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Results vary. Not all participants will achieve these results or benefits.
(2021 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year)
After eighteen years of leading SilverSneakers® classes, Anthony Rodriguez says, “It’s the members who inspire me to be the best person for them.” But class participants say he is their inspiration. As one noted, “Anthony has inspired me with his sense of humor and his kindness, as well as his excellent instruction and suggestions for improving individual skills.”
Anthony, described as “a consummate professional,” makes exercise fun, encourages social interaction, and always keeps participants’ physical well-being in mind.
Before Covid, he hosted monthly parties to celebrate that month’s birthdays. He calls to check on missing participants and has the class sign cards for sick classmates. They “befriend new members like a little family.” He’s knowledgeable, encouraging and sensitive to condition, age and fitness level, pushing but always within limitations. He ensures equipment is in good shape, safe and clean. “His attitude, care and concern for his students is a gift,” said a participant.
Anthony continues to go “above and beyond” for his participants. Pre-Covid, he had led three classes a week of 50 to 60 participants, inspiring them to keep exercising during the shutdown. When the gym first reopened, it limited participants to 12, so Anthony offered five classes a week. Now with 30 participants allowed, his classes are full. He’s still bringing people together, encouraging them and making them feel they can do anything if they try.
“She inspires me to live my best life.” “She shares a wealth of knowledge.” “I could not have endured a year of the pandemic without her Zoom classes and focus on wellness.” These are a few of the many positive statements SilverSneakers participants made about Darlene Blackburn. Prior to the shutdown, Darlene led yoga and other SilverSneakers classes at the Center. Whether in-person or virtually, she explains all exercises thoroughly and offers modifications if needed. Darlene teaches overall fitness, even including a “fruit and vegetable day.” One participant noted, “Having this class on my schedule has given me purpose.”
DeeDee Bosquez says she’s living the dream, doing what she loves – teaching SilverSneakers classes. When gyms closed last year, she continued offering classes in a park and at a pool, to help her participants stay active and connected. DeeDee got closer to participants during the pandemic, calling to check on them, encouraging them when they were afraid, urging them to keep working on strength and balance. Class participants recognize what DeeDee does for them: “This caring woman is a gift to us all and has touched the lives of many of our ‘Silver’ family.”
Deanna Lejarza’s joyful personality, charisma, passion and energy are infectious. Some participants even say she’s been their lifesaver. This amazing instructor genuinely cares for her participants, always interested in individual progress, constantly adding to her routine, and using inspiring music. “Her classes are more than just exercise, they’re social events,” said one nominator. When the pandemic forced gym closures, Deanna jumped right in with Zoom classes and even added activities like crafts, a book club and games and trivia. She always greets family members who appear on screen. She’s a “Jill of all trades” who keeps everyone engaged.
As fitness director and SilverSneakers instructor, Jennifer Parras goes above and beyond to keep her participants active and healthy. She knows their names and pays attention to their progress. “She genuinely cares, and it shows every day,” one participant noted. Another said, “Jennifer is the epitome of motivation. I can move and do things I haven’t done in years!” Positive, energetic, kind, and knowledgeable are ways others describe her. A fellow instructor calls Jennifer “incredibly enthusiastic, supportive and an amazing instructor” with “impeccable values and strong leadership.” Being a “role model” for other instructors and staff is quite the endorsement!
A true inspiration. Passionate. Driven. Participants in her SilverSneakers FLEX classes enthusiastically describe Wells as “the best of the best.” Her dedication to helping others live a healthier lifestyle always shines through in her classes. One nomination noted, “Dawn’s virtual exercise classes gradually challenged me to strive for the best in wellness no matter the circumstances or situation. This is especially striking since she and I are far apart across different time zones, and I am a blind person.” Dawn is the founder of Angel Eyes Fitness and Nutrition, established to empower and provide the Blind and Visually Impaired with specially tailored fitness and nutrition programs.