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Is UnitedHealthcare Dropping SilverSneakers in 2020?

Last year, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), the largest insurance carrier in the United States, announced that SilverSneakers ® would no longer be a plan benefit in 2019. The change would affect the entire UnitedHealthcare® family of products including the plans endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

What Areas Are Affected?

As of January 1, 2019, UHC no longer offers SilverSneakers® with Medicare Advantage plans in 11 states: 

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina 
  • Utah 

Along with Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans in nine states:

  • Arizona 
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Utah 
  • Wisconsin

Why Did UHC and SilverSneakers® Part Ways?

According to Sam Warner, who leads UHC’s Medicare Advantage product team, the company’s move away from SilverSneakers® is to “reach a broader portion of our membership” with a “wider variety of fitness resources.” Warner noted that “over 90 percent of policyholders who are eligible for SilverSneakers® “never step foot in a gym.” 

Will UnitedHealthcare offer any fitness benefit in 2020?

Fitness Benefit | Medicare Plan Finder
Fitness Benefit | Medicare Plan Finder

Yes. Starting in 2020, UHC will offer new fitness benefits* with some plans. As plans can vary in every zip code, ask your licensed agent whether or not this benefit can apply to you! 

Medicare beneficiaries with certain UHC Medigap plans may feature a fitness benefit that includes gym membership discounts and phone access to wellness coaches along with other health resources.

Medicare Advantage policyholders may be able to join a program called Renew Active™, which will replace SilverSneakers® in January 2020. The Renew Active™ benefit may include access to fitness centers, classes, and group activities along with tools to exercise your brain health.

*Always check with your doctor before starting any fitness program to make sure the program suits your individual needs.

How Does Renew Active™ Work?

The new Renew Active™ program includes a gym membership, an online “brain health program,” and access to local events. You can use the Renew Active™ website to find a facility close to you that participates in the program. Renew Active™ works with popular gym chains and local gyms. It may include some Planet Fitness locations, YMCAs, and more.

At no additional cost, Renew Active™ also comes with a personalized fitness plan. You’ll get an introductory one-on-one personal training session to set your initial goals and then you’ll be able to meet with your trainer at least yearly.

You’ll be able to work on strength, aquatic exercises, cardio, mind & body, and other specialty activities (like self-defense or Zumba®).

Renew Active™ can also coordinate with your Fitbit as well as your AARP® Staying Sharp program.

You can get Renew Active ™ if your UHC/AARP ™ Medicare plan supports it.

When Can I Enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Plan?

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is from October 15 – December 7, which is the time of year many Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in new plans or make changes to existing ones. 

Some members qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Depending on your eligibility, you may have a lifelong SEP, which allows you to make one change per quarter for the first three quarters of the year — instead of only during AEP. Some people may only be eligible for a temporary SEP due to a life change, like moving to a new service area.

If you have just become eligible for Medicare for the first time, you can enroll in Medicare Advantage during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

When You Can Enroll in Medicare Supplement Plans

You can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at any time during the year as long as you meet the requirements for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

Note: Don’t wait too long to enroll in Original Medicare because once you’re out of your IEP you may require underwriting, because insurance carriers aren’t required to honor your “Guaranteed Issue Rights”.

Tennessee YMCA Locations Breaks Partnership With SilverSneakers ®

In related news, the Tennessee State Alliance of YMCAs decided to leave the SilverSneakers® network. The change is effective January 1, 2020.

The two organizations parting ways means that you must find different coverage if you want to continue exercising at Tennessee YMCA locations.

Tennessee YMCA locations still accept Silver & Fit®, and you may be able to use Renew Fit.

Other Supplemental Benefits With Medicare Advantage Plans

Along with fitness benefits, some Medicare Advantage plans can offer coverage for vision, dental, and hearing services. Other supplemental benefits include meal delivery, non-emergency medical transportation, and drug coverage (prescription and over-the-counter). 

Find Medicare Plans With a Fitness Benefit

If you want a Medicare plan with a fitness benefit or any other supplemental benefit, one of our licensed agents may be able to help. Our agents are highly trained and they can help you sort through the plans available in your location. To set up a no-cost, no-obligation appointment, call 844-431-1832 or contact us here today!

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This blog was originally published on October 1, 2019. The latest update was on November 26, 2019.

Why Vitamin C is Important for Seniors

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin with several health benefits, but the body does not produce it naturally. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep up with your diet and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients. 

The recommended daily vitamin C intake is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. That might sound like a lot, but one orange can get you at least halfway there. There are several ways to incorporate vitamin C into your diet and to make sure you’re getting enough. No excuses! 

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves quickly in the body. While animals can “make their own” vitamin C, humans cannot produce it. Since it dissolves so quickly, it’s important to intake vitamin C every single day. 

Vitamin C is necessary for the “biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters,” and is “involved in protein metabolism,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Biosynthesis is the process of creating complex molecules that are essential for survival.

In layman’s terms, Vitamin C and biosynthesis are necessary for healing and healthy body functions.

vitamin c fruits

Vitamin C Benefits: What is Vitamin C Good For?

Aside from assisting in the body’s natural biosynthesis process, vitamin C is a:

  1. Antioxidant – Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, meaning it helps defend the body against harmful diseases. It can also improve white blood cell function, making it an all-around fantastic immunity booster.
  2. Blood Pressure Reducer – Studies have shown that Vitamin C can help relax the blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood pressure.
  3. Heart Disease Preventative – Vitamin C has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, especially when taken naturally as part of a diet instead of through supplements.
  4. Gout Preventative – Vitamin C may reduce uric acid in the blood, helping to prevent gout, a painful form of arthritis.
  5. Iron Absorber – Vitamin C can help the body absorb iron properly, making it extremely useful for vegetarians and those who don’t eat enough red meat or who are anemic. 
  6. Memory Enhancer – Studies have shown that people with dementia had low levels of vitamin C, and low levels have overall been linked to forgetfulness.
  7. Eye & Tooth Booster – The American Optometric Association cites vitamin C as an important vitamin for vision and dental health.
vitamin c foods
Couple enjoying a picnic

Vitamin C Side Effects

It is unlikely that you can have a vitamin C overdose, though it is recommended that you don’t take in more than 2,000mg per day. If you get all your vitamin C from food, it can be very hard to have that much in one day. However, it is possible to have 2,000mg or more in one day if you get your vitamin C from supplements. 

It is unlikely to overdose and experience vitamin C side effects, but it can cause

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Nausea/vomiting
  3. Heartburn
  4. Abdominal cramps
  5. Headaches
  6. Insomnia
  7. Redness/flushing
  8. Lightheadedness

The Dangers of a Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Scurvy is the body’s response to a lack of vitamin C. A vitamin C deficiency can cause:

  • Anemia
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Easy bruising, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds
  • Weakened tooth enamel
  • Weight gain
  • Swollen joints
  • Decreased ability to fight infection

Scurvy is a severe form a vitamin C deficiency, and it mostly affects older and malnourished adults.

How to Get The Right Vitamin C Dosage

The easiest and healthiest way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C each day is to incorporate it into your diet. Most foods that have good amounts of vitamin C have other important nutrients in them as well. For example, oranges and orange juice are well known for being a good source of vitamin C, but they also have plenty of potassium, folate (vitamin B9), and thiamine (vitamin B1).

vitamin c food
Couple enjoying a healthy breakfast

Vitamin C Foods

Many fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, including

  • Guavas
  • Bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Snow peas

Vitamin C Drinks

If you prefer, fruit drinks can have a lot of the same value as pieces of fruit. However, be aware that many fruit juices are full of added sugars and may not be a healthy long-term solution. If you have the ability to make your own fresh-squeezed orange juice, that can be a great healthy alternative. An eight-ounce glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice can contain 125mg of vitamin C, more than the recommended daily amount!

Grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and prune juice can also provide great vitamin C value.

Vitamin C Supplements

You can find vitamin C supplements in various forms, like serums, powders, tablets, gels, and gummies! 

Vitamin C Tablets, Pills, and Gummies

You can find most any supplement you’re looking for in tablet, pill, or gummy form from your local pharmacy or grocery store. Consider these examples (which can also be purchased from Amazon):

  1. Vitafusion Power C Gummy Vitamins: These gummies can get you to your daily recommended vitamin C dosage
  2. CVS 500mg Immune Health Dietary Supplement: These tables contain 500mg of vitamin C, which is labeled as 833% of your daily value! Be sure to not take too much.
  3. Generics: Many drugstores will have generic versions of these supplements which may be cheaper than their brand-name counterparts (but usually include the same important ingredients).

Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C serums are usually meant to be used on the skin, so it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or dermatologist before using a product. This example we found from InstaNatural is designed to be an anti-aging and blemish defense as well as a hydrating serum.

Vitamin C Powder

If you don’t want to take a pill but you need another form of a vitamin C supplement, you might want to try a vitamin C powder. Powders like this one from Nature’s Way are meant to be stirred into an eight ounce glass of water. You can also mix it into a smoothie or juice! This powder contains 500mg of vitamin C and only has 15 calories in it.

Emergen-C has a similar product, but it contains other nutrients as well. This one produces an orange fizzy beverage which includes vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12.

Emergen-C

We couldn’t go without mentioning the other host of products that Emergen-C offers (and no, they are not sponsoring this post)! Aside from vitamin C and adult  immune health support, Emergen-C also has energizing products, sleep aids, and kids immune support!

Orange juice
Orange Juice

Emergen-C Ingredients

Each Emergen-C product has slightly different ingredients, but we wanted to look at the Emergen-C Probiotics Plus product designed for daily immune health support. This product has an orange flavor and will provide 250mg of vitamin C (less than other products but still more than your daily recommended intake), and 110mg of potassium. It also lists out fructose, citric acid, maltodextrin, and malic acid. 

While those extra ingredients can seem a bit scary, a lot of them are found naturally in the foods we eat. For example, malic acid is what contributes to the sour taste of many fruits. Additionally, nutritionfacts.org said that by weight, citrus fruits are about 10$ citric acid. So, you might be getting these ingredients in your daily diet anyway.

Still, taking supplements does not mean that you can always eat unhealthy foods. These supplements are meant to literally supplement your diet, meaning you should still focus on eating healthy

Emergen-C vs Airborne

Airborne is another great product that advertises a “blast of vitamin C.” Both products contain very similar ingredients but come in different forms and flavors. For example, this product from Airborne has a “Very Berry” flavor and comes in the form of a tablet that will dissolve in a glass of water. 

Yummy Vitamin C-Filled Meal Ideas

If you have a hard time incorporating vitamin C-filled fruit and vegetables into your diet, consider these sneaky tricks:

  1. Add sliced strawberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal
  2. Freeze fresh fruit juices in a popsicle mold for a natural alternative to the sweet treat
  3. Include leafy greens in your sandwiches and burgers
  4. Use berries instead of chocolate chips in your pancakes and muffins
  5. Enjoy a bowl of tomato soup with your sandwich
  6. Add vitamin C powders to your water or juice

When in doubt, always ask your doctor about your diet. If you’re really struggling, your doctor might refer you to a nutritionist who can put together a concrete dietary plan designed just for you. 

Consider joining our 28-day “Healthy Living Challenge” to get yourself started. Good luck!

Healthy Living Challenge | Medicare Plan Finder
Join the challenge!

Winter Wellness Tips for Seniors and Medicare Eligibles

Winter often consists of lower temperatures, less sunlight, and more time indoors. The same weather that is bothersome to most can prove to be dangerous for others.

Winter Safety Tips for the Elderly

love, winter holidays and people concept – happy senior couple with takeaway coffee at christmas market on town hall square in tallinn, estonia

Seniors and Medicare eligibles face several dangers including falling on ice or snow, frostbite, and hypothermia. Use these winter wellness tips to help ensure you are healthy, safe, and able to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.

Falling on Ice or Snow

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Fall prevention is important outside and in your home, but snow and ice can easily blindside you. Tips to protect yourself from falling on ice or snow include:

  • Understand the side effects of your medications. Some medicines can cause dizziness or vision issues, so be cautious when leaving your home.
  • Wear weather-appropriate shoes. Make sure your shoes are the right size and have good traction.
  • Allow extra time when commuting to your destination. Don’t rush when you’re walking and take small deliberate steps.
  • Use sand or cat litter on sidewalks or walkways.
  • When going inside, wipe your feet off before you enter. Wet shoes can cause you to slip on dry surfaces.
  • Keep your hands free whenever possible. If you are carrying bags, take several trips so you do not overload yourself. Always ask for help if possible.
  • Have emergency numbers stored in your phone. Take your phone whenever you leave the house, even on short trips to your car or mailbox. If you fall, you can easily access your phone and call for help.

Frostbite and Hypothermia in the Elderly

As temperatures drop, there is an increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia in the elderly. Frostbite and hypothermia are a result of cold weather and can be difficult to notice. Understanding the differences, warning signs, and symptoms are important when practicing winter wellness.

Frostbite occurs when your skin is exposed during extreme winter conditions. The cold weather causes your tissues underneath your skin to freeze. Frostbite causes you to lose feeling in the exposed area, which is commonly your fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chin. If your skin turns white or a grayish-yellow color, or feels firm or waxy, seek medical care immediately.

Hypothermia occurs when your body’s core temperature becomes abnormally low. Hypothermia in the elderly is more likely due to a decreased production of body heat.

Warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If you are experiencing these warning signs, take your temperature if possible. If your temperature is below 95 degrees, seek medical health immediately.

Prevention is key to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia. Make sure your home is well heated and insulated and be sure to eat healthy foods to fuel your body.

If you need to go outside or travel for any given reason, check the weather, and if possible, avoid extremely low temperatures. However, if you must venture out, wear plenty of weather-appropriate clothing.

Senior Isolation in the Winter

Many seniors and Medicare eligibles may be unable to leave their home in the winter. This can lead to a lack of social interaction. Feeling isolated can disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure, increase the risk of depression, and lower your overall well-being. Tips to prevent isolation include:

  • Call, email, or FaceTime friends and family regularly.
  • Join a senior community center.
  • Consider adopting a pet.
  • Find a book or tv show that you enjoy.
  • Pick up a new hobby.
  • Exercise or practice yoga.
  • Consider getting your meals delivered to encourage a healthy diet. Programs like Meals on Wheels are great options.
  • Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors.
  • If you really struggle with isolation, consider moving into an assisted living facility.

Fire Hazards

Home fires can start at any time but are more common in the colder months. It’s important to practice fire safety and have an emergency action plan in place. Here’s what you should remember:

  • Make sure you have smoke alarms in the appropriate areas of your home, especially near any sleeping areas. Test alarms regularly and have spare batteries on hand.
  • Never walk away from a room when cooking. Plus, you should always have a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Keep curtains and drapes away from any heat source.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • If you have a fireplace, get it inspected annually.
  • Place space heaters in an area that is open and clear.
  • If you smoke, avoid smoking indoors and around oxygen tanks.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s associated with changes in seasons. The disorder begins and ends at about the same time every year, with symptoms starting in autumn and continuing until spring. 

Symptoms of SAD

SAD symptoms may include: 

  • Feeling depressed most of the day almost every day
  • Loss of interest in activities you’d normally enjoy
  • Low energy
  • Having problems falling or staying sleeping asleep (or sleeping too much)
  • Changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide*

*If you or someone you love experiences thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Combat SAD With a Winter Fitness Plan for Retirees

Retirees and Medicare eligibles can fight SAD with a great fitness plan. According to Harvard Medical School, fitness is as effective as antidepressants in some cases. Although a gym membership with fitness classes may help, you can get a great workout at home. All you need is some dumbbells, resistance bands, or even a chair.

In some locations, going for a walk outside isn’t an option due to weather concerns. Have you considered going for a walk at the mall? Many indoor shopping centers open their doors to “mall walkers” before the stores open.

Medicare Fitness Programs

Winter Wellness and Medicare

Winter wellness is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle through the holidays and into spring. However, it’s important to focus on your wellness year around. Medicare Advantage plans have additional benefits and coverage that can help you become the healthiest version of you!

Many plans offer hearing, dental, and vision coverage. Plus, some even offer fitness classes like through SilverSneakers®! If you’re interested in hearing more about these additional benefits or have any questions regarding your Medicare coverage, call us at 844-431-1832 or fill out this form to get in contact with a licensed agent.

This post was originally published on December 11, 2018, and updated on November 22, 2019.

Yoga for Seniors and Medicare Eligibles

Yoga for seniors and Medicare eligibles is an effective way to improve your mental and physical wellness. When some people think of yoga, they may picture complex poses with intricate twists. That image of an unattainable exercise may make the ancient practice seem intimidating.

However, yoga doesn’t have to be intimidating or unattainable. Yoga has many health benefits, and it can even be included in certain Medicare plans.

Health Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

Yoga combines physical movements, breathing, and meditation into one exercise. If you struggle with joint pain, balance issues, body stiffness, sleep issues, stress, or anxiety, yoga may be able to help! The health benefits of yoga for seniors and Medicare eligibles are as follows:

Balance and Stability

As you age, your risk of falling increases. Yoga focuses on slow and measured movements and the strengthening of your muscles. These exercises can help keep you upright and strong to avoid tripping or falling. Your focus, strength, and body alignment can all improve with yoga and increase your balance and stability.

Flexibility

At any age, stretching is important. Simple tasks, like tying your shoes, can quickly become difficult without proper daily stretching. Yoga allows you to increase your flexibility through each exercise.

Breathing

Respiratory limitations can be developed when our oxygen level begins to deplete. Studies have shown that after twelve weeks of yoga, many seniors and Medicare eligibles have seen significant respiratory improvement. Plus, the deep breathing exercises that encompass basic yoga sequences and poses can improve overall lung function in a low-impact environment.

Stress and Anxiety

Yoga for seniors and Medicare beneficiaries can help reduce stress and promotes mental clarity. Yoga is so much more than just “stretching.” It is a practice that requires both the mind and body. Meditation and relaxation are heavily incorporated. These exercises can help you be more mindful and aware of the present moment in time.

Yoga for Obese Seniors

According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga may be a “useful addition to an overall weight-loss plan.” You may not burn as many calories with yoga as you do with aerobic exercise, but it can help improve your self-esteem and overall mood.

Obesity can put excess stress on your joints, and yoga may be a safe form of exercise that may not cause additional pain.

If you want to do yoga, it may be a great addition to a comprehensive fitness program that includes aerobic activity such as cycling or walking.

Beginning Yoga for Seniors and Medicare Eligibles

Yoga doesn’t have to be intimidating. There are gentle yoga poses for seniors and Medicare eligibles and some poses incorporate chairs to help aid any balance or stability issues.

Gentle Yoga Poses for Seniors and Medicare Eligibles

Simple yoga for seniors and Medicare eligibles is generally low-impact and great for beginners. There are numerous gentle yoga poses for seniors and Medicare eligibles that are available, but the most popular are as follows:

Seated Forward Bend: Sit on the floor and keep your legs straight in front of you. Inhale and lean forward as far as you can. To avoid potential injuries, never force or push your body. This pose can calm the brain and help relieve stress. It stretches the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings and stimulates your liver and kidneys.

Legs Up The Wall: Find a sturdy wall and bring your tailbone as close as possible and raise your legs. Stay in this position for 10-15 minutes and focus on your breathing. This pose reduces gravity on your body and helps calm the nervous system.

Easy Pose: This yoga pose has been depicted as far as 2,000 years ago. Keep your back straight and cross your legs. This pose is great for meditation and breathing exercises. This pose comes naturally to children, but as you age, it may become more difficult. With practice, you can open your hips and help your spine return to proper alignment.

Corpse Pose: Lie flat on your back with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Have your palms facing upwards. This pose is usually done at the end of your yoga practice and is more than just laying down. It relaxes your whole body and can release any stress, fatigue, or tension you may have.

Yoga for Seniors | Medicare Plan Finder
Gentle Yoga Poses for Seniors and Medicare Eligibles | Medicare Plan Finder

Chair Yoga Poses for Seniors and Medicare Eligibles

If the balancing aspect of yoga intimidates you – good news, a chair can help! Many yoga poses can be modified to incorporate a chair. There are still significant benefits to this type of yoga, and it is very popular among people who have balancing issues. The following are chair yoga poses for seniors and Medicare eligibles:

Forward Fold: Sit in a chair and bend forward. When you inhale, raise your arms over your head and reach as far as possible. This yoga pose stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calves. This pose calms the brain and relieves stress. Plus, it stimulates your livers and kidneys and improves digestion.

Spinal Twist: When you are sitting on a chair, reach back as far as you can and twist your torso. It’s important to keep a good posture while twisting. This can lengthen, relax, and align your spine. Plus, it stretches your entire upper body. This can prevent your spine from becoming stiff and can help you maintain a normal spinal rotation.

Pigeon: The normal Pigeon pose can be quite difficult for seniors to do, so a chair can help tremendously! Sit up straight in your chair and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your right or left leg onto the other knee. Push the knee downward, and if possible, pull your foot up slightly. Repeat this 3-5 times and then switch to the other leg. Pigeon pose helps open your hip joints and helps lengthen your hip flexors. It can also help prevent or relieve sciatica pain.

Cat and Cow: Keep your feet flat on the floor and keep your back straight. When you inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders back. When you exhale, arch your spine the other way and drop your chin to your chest. This is great for breathing exercises. This stretches the lungs and chest, which makes breathing easier. This also stretches the hips, back, and abdomen.

Chest Expansion: Sit as straight as possible and reach your hands to the back of your chair. Lift your chest and take a deep breath. Do this for 3-5 breaths and then repeat. This strengthens your hand, arm, shoulder, and back muscles.

Chair Yoga for Seniors | Medicare Plan Finder
Chair Yoga for Seniors | Medicare Plan Finder

For more yoga poses for seniors, check out this video “Yoga for Seniors” by Yoga With Adriene:

Does Medicare Cover Yoga?

Original Medicare does not cover yoga or any other fitness classes. However, certain private insurance plans called Medicare Advantage cover the same benefits as Original Medicare (Part A and B) and can cover additional benefits such as vision, dental, and hearing coverage along with coverage for fitness classes.

These plans are growing in popularity. According to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, enrollment has tripled to 19 million beneficiaries since 2003.

SilverSneakers ® Yoga Classes

Medicare SilverSneakers® is a fitness benefit found in many Medicare Advantage plans. SilverSneakers® hosts fitness programs for seniors that focus on general fitness, strength, flexibility, and walking ability for seniors and Medicare eligibles just like you. Medicare SilverSneakers® fitness events can also help seniors find new friends who also want to pursue an active lifestyle.

SilverSneakers® yoga classes provide a unique opportunity for seniors and Medicare eligibles to practice yoga in a judgment-free, inclusive group. These classes often incorporate chair yoga poses for seniors and Medicare eligibles.

More than 65% of leading Medicare Advantage plans include Medicare SilverSneakers.® This is generally provided at no cost.

Plus, there are over 11,000 locations across the US that offer SilverSneakers® yoga classes. Once you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes SilverSneakers® yoga, you will have access to any participating facility.

Medicare Fitness Programs

How to Find SilverSneakers ® Yoga Classes Near You

The SilverSneakers® website has a location finder so you can find participating gyms with classes near you. To get started, click here. You’ll come to the SilverSneakers® homepage, which looks like this. Click on the magnifying glass with the word “Locations” under it.

How to Find SilverSneakers Yoga Near You Step 1 | Medicare Plan Finder
How to Find SilverSneakers ® Yoga Near You Step 1 | Medicare Plan Finder

That will lead you to the location finder tool. Enter your zip code in the search bar as shown in red. We chose 37209, which is the zip code for our corporate offices in Nashville, TN. Then click the carrot shown in green. After you do that, select SilverSneakers® as shown in blue. The final part of this step is clicking the magnifying glass shown in yellow.

How to Find SilverSneakers Yoga Near You Step 2 | Medicare Plan Finder
How to Find SilverSneakers Yoga Near You Step 2 | Medicare Plan Finder

The next page lists the SilverSneakers® partners in your area. Clicking the listed gym names will show you the amenities at each location. We only clicked on the first location for demonstration purposes.

How to Find SilverSneakers Yoga Near You Step 3 | Medicare Plan Finder
How to Find SilverSneakers ® Yoga Near You Step 3| Medicare Plan Finder

Here, you can see that the Gordon Jewish Community Center offers SilverSneakers® yoga classes in red. Use the contact information shown in blue to learn how to get started.

How to Find SilverSneakers Yoga Near You Step 4| Medicare Plan Finder
How to Find SilverSneakers Yoga Near You Step 4| Medicare Plan Finder

Enroll in Medicare Advantage

If SilverSneakers® yoga is something you’re interested in, then you should consider enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan.

If you interested in enrolling in the best MA plan for your needs and budget, fill out this form or call us at 833-438-3676 to speak with a licensed agent. These appointments are no-cost to you and obligation-free. Our licensed agents can answer any questions you may have, and best of all, make sure you get SilverSneakers® yoga.

Find Medicare Advantage Plans | Medicare Plan Finder

This post was originally published on October 25, 2018, by Kelsey Davis and was updated on November 18, 2019, by Troy Frink.

Healthy Soups for Seniors

There are thousands of unique soup recipes out there on the internet. While soup may only be as healthy as the ingredients inside it, Eatingwell.com reports that soup-eaters have “higher intakes of fiber, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, and potassium, which are all important for a healthy diet, especially for aging seniors! Soups also tend to be relatively low in calories!

Granted, like everything else, you should enjoy soup in moderation. Soups also tend to be high in sodium, which can raise your blood pressure. The potassium content in many soups can even the sodium out, but it’s still not something you want to over-indulge in. 

Healthiest Soups for Seniors

The way you prepare and consume a soup can determine whether or not it’s healthy for you. “Healthy” can also depend on your specific dietary needs.

However, the following soups can be deliciously healthy when prepared correctly!

Healthy Living Challenge | Medicare Plan Finder
Join the 28-Day Healthy Living Challenge!

Broth-based Soups

Broth is made of bones and tissue usually derived from chicken, cows, or even fish. Broth can be rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. MedicalNewsToday says that broth can strengthen your joints, fight osteoarthritis, reduce inflammation, support weight loss, and even aid sleep.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting millions each year. Arthritis can become a legitimate concern. Arthritis happens when your bones wear down from overuse, which can become more possible as you age.

Tomato-based Soups

Tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and are sometimes considered a superfood. Uniquely, they also contain lycopene, a plant compound that gives tomatoes their red color and has been linked to prostate cancer prevention. Tomatoes are one of the few sources of lycopene. Tomatoes have also been proven to help maintain blood pressure, support heart health, improve insulin levels in diabetic people, reduce constipation, and improve skin and eye health.

Tomato Soup for Seniors
Tomato Soup for Seniors

Lentil-based Soups

Lentils are high in fiber and nutrients like vitamin B, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They also contain phytochemicals, which protect against chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Again, like everything, it’s important to only enjoy lentils in moderation. Uniquely, they contain “antinutrients,” which can reduce your intake of other nutrients. Thankfully, you would have to eat a lot of lentils for this to pose a real problem!

Healthy Canned Soup

In many cases, canned soups are not going to be nearly as healthy as a fresh, home-made batch. However, sometimes, you just don’t have the time or energy to make yourself some fresh soup! Canned soup can be very cheap at your local grocery store (and even online), and it’s not always terrible for you. 

When looking for healthy canned soups, look at the nutrition label and look for low sodium content, less calories, and more vitamins and minerals. Additionally, canned soups tend to have high levels of BPA. Consider looking for soups packaged in “Tetra Pak” or other cardboard/BPA-free solutions.

Here are a few examples we found online: 

  1. Health Valley Organic (No Salt Added) Minestrone: 
    • Only 100mg of sodium in the whole container
    • Only 180 calories in the whole container
    • Only 4g of fat in the whole container
    • A serving is about half of the container. Each serving contains 40% of your daily vitamin A intake, 15% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 8% iron
  2. Dr. McDougall’s Organic Split Pea Soup
    • Verified non-GMO, gluten-free, and USDA organic
    • Comes in BPA-free packaging
    • Entire container has only 250 calories and only 1g of fat and 1g sugar
    • No cholesterol 
    • Entire container contains 590mg sodium
    • Entire container has 15g of protein 
    • Also includes vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium
  3. Pacific Foods Creamy Tomato Soup
    • Verified gluten-free, kosher, vegetarian, and USDA organic
    • BPA-free packaging
    • There is quite a bit of sodium in this one, with 3,000mg in the entire container
    • Entire package contains 8g fat and 400 calories
    • Good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron

Easiest Soups to Make at Home

Each of the healthy canned soup options we listed above can be made at home! We searched the internet and found three great recipes to share.

1. Easy Home-made Minestrone

We found this minestrone recipe from the Food Network!

You might have a lot of these ingredients in your pantry already, and you can use them to make six servings of minestrone!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 diced celery stalks
  • 1 diced large carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups of trimmed green beans (cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 28oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (drained & rinsed) 15oz can low-sodium kidney brains
  • 1 cup elbow pasta
  • ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, cook about four minutes or until translucent
  3. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds
  4. Add celery and carrot and cook until soft, about five minutes
  5. Stir in green beans, dried oregano and basil, ¾ tsp salt, and pepper to taste; cook for three minutes
  6. Add diced and crushed tomatoes and chicken broth; bring to boil
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for ten minutes
  8. Stir in kidney beans and pasta, cook until tender (about ten minutes)
  9. Season with salt
  10. Serve topped with parmesan and chopped basil

Thank you, Food Network, for this recipe! Head over there to print this recipe and to leave a comment about what you think about it!

Free Prescription Discount Card
Free Prescription Drug Card

2. Easy Home-made Split-pea Soup

We found this recipe for split-pea soup that serves six people from Epicurious! You could probably substitute out a different cut of pork (for example, if you have some leftover ham from Thanksgiving, throw that in there)!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 chopped large onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 ½ pounds smoked pork hocks
  • 2 tsp dried leaf marjoram
  • 1 ½ cups green split peas
  • 8 cups water

Directions: 

  1. Melt butter in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrots
  3. Saute until vegetables soften (about eight minutes)
  4. Add pork and marjoram; stir for one minute
  5. Add peas, then water; bring to boil
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover pot
  7. Simmer until pork and vegetables are tender and peas are falling apart; stir often (about 70 minutes)
  8. Transfer hocks to a bowl
  9. Puree five cups soup in batches in a blender; return to pot
  10. Cut pork off bones, dice and return to soup
  11. Season with salt and pepper, serve warm!

Thank you, Epicurious, for this recipe! Head over there to leave a comment about the recipe.

Grandmother and daughter grocery shopping
Grandmother and her granddaughter bringing home groceries

3. Easy Home-made Tomato Soup

We found this recipe for “Easy Three-Ingredient Tomato Soup” by Adam and Joanne Gallagher at Inspired Taste! It contains half the ingredients (or less) and half the sodium of a canned tomato soup!

Ingredients: 

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ large onion cut into wedges
  • 1 28oz can peeled or crushed tomatoes (or 10-12 medium fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 ½ cups water, low sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Directions: 

  • Melt butter in dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat
  • Add onions, water, tomatoes, and ½ tsp salt
  • Bring to simmer and cook uncovered for about 40 minutes
  • Stir occasionally; add salt as needed
  • Pour into a blender and blend to taste (it can be as smooth or as textured as you’d like)
  • Add basil if desired!

A note from Medicare Plan Finder: we love a little parmesan in our tomato soup!

Thank you, Inspired Taste, for this recipe! Head over to their site to watch a video of how this soup is made and to leave a comment with your thoughts on the recipe.

7 Best Teas for Healthy Seniors

The health benefits of tea are seemingly endless. Teas are usually full of antioxidants and important nutrients that can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, assist with weight loss, protect your bones, soothe your digestive system, keep you hydrated, and more. 

Different types of tea can provide different benefits. Today, we’ll share the seven teas that you should keep in your pantry to help relieve different symptoms.

#1 – Green Tea: Best Tea for Energy and Focus

Even though green tea has about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, it has been proven to improve energy and focus as well as improve sleep quality. Plus, a Japanese study proved that L-theanine, which is found in green teas, can improve focus and reduce anxiety.

Aging can bring a natural decrease in energy, and coffee might not be the best way to supplement it. While coffee can provide energy by keeping you alert, green tea can provide a more calming energy and keep you relaxed throughout the day.

Plus, green tea contains about 30% polyphenols, substances that can protect your cells from damage, reducing the risk of certain diseases, and the effects of aging.

Best Green Tea for Energy

While all green teas should be made the same way, some are more processed than others. The best green tea for energy and focus will be natural and fresh. 

It’s also best to use loose leaves instead of tea bags. Even though tea bags may be easier to use, they also typically contain broken, low-quality tea leaves and are more likely to gather dust. 

Lose leaves will often have a stronger, fresher flavor and are less likely to have lost nutrients during production. 

Check your local organic or healthy food store for fresh green tea leaves.

Green Tea for Seniors
Green Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

#2 – Peppermint Tea: Best Tea for a Cold

There’s a reason why cough drops are commonly peppermint flavored, and why you might feel clean and refreshed after enjoying a peppermint candy or gum: menthol. Menthol is an alcohol naturally derived from peppermint or mint oils. It creates a peppermint flavor, but it also is a counterirritant for skin and mucous membranes. 

Menthol also creates a local anesthetic effect. That’s why while enjoying a cough drop (and for the moments after), you might notice that you can’t feel the irritation in the back of your throat anymore. 

Peppermint tea can have a similar effect to a menthol cough drop when you have a cold. It can help break up any mucus in your throat that is causing a cough or itchiness. 

At the same time, peppermint itself has antibacterial properties that can fight off disease and boost your immunity – making peppermint tea a great option for when you’re fighting off a cold.

Peppermint Tea for Caffeine

Like other herbal teas, natural peppermint tea does not contain any caffeine! That means peppermint tea is also a great option for those who are actively trying to avoid caffeine. 

Peppermint Tea for Nausea

Though ginger may be what people more commonly reach for when it comes to nausea and digestion solutions, peppermint tea can work wonders for that as well. Peppermint can relax the stomach muscles and make it easier for bile to break down fats. 

Peppermint Tea for Seniors
Peppermint Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

#3 – Chamomile Tea: Best Herbal Tea for Sore Throats

Chamomile tea has natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent properties. Similar to peppermint tea, drinking chamomile tea when you have a cold can help soothe a sore throat! 

The main difference in whether you choose chamomile or peppermint (other than flavor) is what kind of illness you are trying to cure. If you have a lot of phlegm build up in your throat, peppermint tea might do a better job of breaking that up. However, if you have strep throat or another condition that leaves you with an itchy, dry throat, chamomile might be the better option. 

Another great option available at grocery stores is a product called “Throat Coat.” Throat Coat has a distinct licorice taste that some people love, and some people hate. Throat Coat, produced by Traditional Medicinals, is known for being a useful tool for vocalists who have a scratchy throat but have a performance coming up. The product can cause major temporary relief from an itchy or scratchy throat! It includes organic ingredients such as licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and traces of cherry bark, fennel fruit, cinnamon bark, and orange peel.

Cinnamon Tea: Best Tea for Weight Loss

While cinnamon tea has not been directly tied for weight loss, cinnamon itself does have certain properties that can contribute to weight loss. 

For starters, cinnamon is loaded with fiber, which can make you feel full and prevent you from overeating. Additionally, cinnamon has been said to boost your metabolism due to the amount of energy it takes your body to process the spice. 

Similarly, cinnamon can reduce bloating – which doubles as a remedy for indigestion!

Cinnamon Tea for Diabetes

Cinnamon tea is also “said to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar,” which can help control type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes but is also the most preventable and treatable. People with type 2 diabetes frequently begin with “prediabetes.” If you’re prediabetic, that likely means you have high blood sugar and your body is starting to reject insulin. Healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss can help prevent your prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon tea and other cinnamon products may help you keep your blood sugar down (but that doesn’t mean you can eat all the sugary cinnamon rolls you want)!

Cinnamon Tea for Seniors
Cinnamon Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

#5 – Ginger Tea: Best Tea for Nausea

You probably already know that ginger ale can be a fantastic remedy for an upset stomach, but ginger ale products can be loaded with sugar! Ginger tea is a healthier option for curing nausea. 

Healthline.com recommends drinking about four cups of ginger tea to reduce nausea. If you don’t have ginger tea, you can use freshly grated (or store-bought grated) ginger by steeping it in hot water the same way you would tea leaves. Be sure to sip your ginger tea slowly if you already have an upset stomach! 

If your ginger tea is too bitter, try sweetening it with natural honey before turning to granulated sugar.

Ginger Tea Health Benefits

Other than relieving nausea and an upset stomach, ginger tea has other health benefits as well. Ginger is naturally anti-inflammatory, so regular ginger tea drinking can be a home remedy for muscle and joint aches (soaking in ginger can have the same effect).

Ginger can also improve your blood circulation, relieve menstrual discomfort, relieve stress, strengthen your immune system, and fight respiratory problems. 

Ginger Tea Side Effects

Like anything else, ginger is only good in moderation! Some people may experience diarrhea or abdominal discomfort after drinking too much ginger tea or consuming too much ginger. Some people also experience heartburn and lightheadedness. 

If you notice strong side effects or sudden discomfort after drinking ginger tea, stop use, and call your doctor if symptoms worsen. 

#6 – Jasmine Tea: Best Tea for Stress

Jasmine tea is a combination of tea leaves and jasmine blossoms. Jasmine’s aroma has been called a stress reducer for years, with a variety of perfumes, lotions, and candles carrying the jasmine scent. The scent triggers a “parasympathetic” response, which releases chemicals that allow you to relax.

Like everything else, stress can become more dangerous as you age, so it’s important to stay on top of it. Dr. Michelle Dossett from the Institute for Mind Body Medicine says, “Our cells are aging. Heart fitness and lung capacity decline, especially if you’re sedentary.” When your heart fitness and lung capacity decline, your body’s natural stress response can sort of take over more than it did in the past. 

If your stress gets particularly bad, it may be time to speak to a counselor. Make yourself some jasmine tea and find a counselor near you. Stress, anxiety, and depression are nothing to wait on: get help now!

#7 – Lemon Verbena: Best Tea for Inflammation

A lot of different teas have anti-inflammatory properties, but lemon verbena tea has been used for centuries to treat colds, fevers, anxiety, indigestion, spasms, insomnia, immunity, weight loss, etc. Lemon verbena is all around a great tea to keep in your house. 

In regards to inflammation, lemon verbena is a plant with natural anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is not always obvious. When you think of inflammation, you probably think of your skin turning red, blotchy, or even bumpy, like in the case of an allergic reaction. While that’s certainly one type of inflammation, inflammation can also occur in your muscles and joints. It can be the result of an infection or a physical injury. Inflammation can be the result of a large number of illnesses, so an anti-inflammatory product like lemon verbena tea is certainly multi-use. 

Lemon Verbena Tea for Seniors
Lemon Verbena Tea | Medicare Plan Finder

Electric Tea Kettles for Seniors

Ready to give some of these tea suggestions a try? How will you try them at home?

Whether you have arthritis, weak muscles, or dementia…or you’re just a little bit worried, there are safe tea kettle options out there designed with seniors in mind. When you’re choosing a tea kettle for yourself or a senior relative, you should keep the following six factors in mind:

Weight: Weak or arthritic hands will find a heavy tea kettle cumbersome. Dropping a steaming hot tea kettle can be a disaster! Look for tea kettles that are small to begin with so that they aren’t incredibly heavy when full of water.

Automatic shut-off: Regardless of how old you are, it’s easy to pour your tea but forget to turn off the kettle. Forgetful seniors will benefit from an electric kettle that automatically turns off when the water is boiling. 

Cool handle: Make sure the kettle you purchase has a cool handle, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to wear your oven mitts! The same goes for other heating elements. Sometimes you’ll notice in toasters and other devices that certain elements turn red when they heat up. Those are exposed heating elements and can be a burn hazard. 

BPA-free: Read the packaging to look for BPA-free kettles. BPA is a chemical found in plastic that can be harmful if ingested. 

Cordless: A cordless kettle reduces tripping hazards and is easier to carry.

7 Types of Exercises for Seniors (with Pictures!)

Exercising is not just for weight loss. As you get older, it becomes increasingly important to keep your body active in order to keep your strength and stability. However, it also becomes harder to exercise as you age. 

Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be intense. You’re not expected to run marathons at 80 years old (though some have done it), but your doctor might recommend that you spend some time on your feet. Exercise for you can mean something as simple as taking a walk around the block.

The following are seven different types of safe exercises for seniors with pictures included. 

Senior Swimming Workouts

If you have a pool available to you, either at home or at a local fitness center, swimming exercises can be kind to older bodies. Experts especially recommend swimming exercises for those with joint pain or arthritis. 

Some fitness centers may offer swimming classes that you can join. If there aren’t any available, consider taking the time yourself to jog through the water, swim laps, or use the resistance of the water to practice leg lifts. 

In fact, certain private Medicare plans might come with a fitness program benefit. These benefits often include memberships to local fitness centers that can allow you access to free or very low-cost exercise classes. 

Seniors at a swimming class | Senior exercises | Medicare Plan Finder

Simple Yoga for Seniors

Yoga can help improve your balance, stability, and flexibility and can even reduce stress. Yoga poses don’t have to be complicated, either. 

Check out these examples of gentle yoga poses: 

gentle yoga poses | Medicare Plan Finder
gentle yoga poses | Medicare Plan Finder

You also might be able to find yoga classes offered at your local fitness center. Look for beginner-level classes or classes specifically designed for senior groups (unless you think you’re ready for advanced yoga – do what you feel comfortable with!). 

Pilates for the Elderly

Pilates exercises focus on your core strength, which can also improve your balance and stability. Pilates exercises can be easily performed at home. It includes poses like planks and sit-ups.

You can do Pilates from a mat in your local gym, or you can set up on your carpet or on your personal yoga mat at home. It does not require additional equipment!

Senior Man Doing Press Ups In Gym | Medicare Plan Finder

Senior Walking & Biking Exercises

Walking or biking for as little as 30 minutes per day can result in weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, reduced blood pressure, stronger bones, better balance, and more!

If you feel safe walking around your neighborhood, you don’t even have to go anywhere. Otherwise, you can find a pretty park, a school running track, or even a shopping mall to get your steps in. 

You could also get your daily walk in by walking your dog or strolling with your grandkids! 

If you feel comfortable, you can also try running – but don’t push yourself. 

Seniors jogging with their dog outside | Medicare Plan Finder

Chair Exercises for Seniors

Sometimes standing up for long periods of time is NOT healthy. Some people can’t walk or move too much, and that’s ok. There are still ways to exercise and safely keep your body moving.

For example, try the “seated row.” Sit in a dining chair or any chair without arms, and repeat a “rowing” motion with your arms at least 8-10 times. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable. This repeated motion will work your upper back and chest muscles. 

You could also do knee lifts from a chair. Simply lift your knees one at a time towards your chest. Lift each leg individually at least 8-10 times. As you get stronger, you can increase the number of lifts and work on bringing your legs higher.

Prefer an even more sedentary routine? These yoga poses can be done from your chair: 

chair yoga poses | Medicare Plan Finder
Chair Yoga Poses | Medicare Plan Finder

Stretching Exercises for Seniors

Regular stretches are important as your joints age. As you age, your muscles gradually shorten and lose elasticity. While you can’t necessarily stop the aging process, you can certainly make yourself more comfortable by performing daily stretches. 

“Static” stretching lengthens your muscles and improves your range of motion. Static stretching means holding a position for 10 to 30 seconds (or even longer, if you have the patience). Static stretches can be as simple as sitting down and touching your toes for 30 seconds straight. 

Try to remember to spend a few minutes on static stretching exercises at least three to five times per week. 

Keep in mind that you should feel the stretch a little, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you find yourself in pain after a stretch, you may have pushed yourself too far, or something could be wrong. Always see your doctor if you find yourself in pain.

Happy senior women stretching while out on a run | Medicare Plan Finder

Senior Dance Classes

Not only are dance workouts more fun, but they usually work several different areas of the body. If you feel comfortable with it, finding a local dance class for seniors is a great way to move your body. 

You can join a “Zumba” class, a dance class designed for full-body workouts, or you can join a class that teaches you how to dance, like a salsa class. Even though a salsa class may not be designed as an exercise program, it certainly keeps your body moving and can still result in positive fitness results.

Senior couple dancing | Medicare Plan Finder

Medicare Fitness Coverage

If you’d like to do your workouts in group settings or would prefer to use the equipment at a gym, you might actually be able to get insurance for that. 

That’s right – private Medicare plans (Medicare Advantage) can sometimes include Medicare fitness programs. These programs can pay for your gym membership and can provide unique classes designed just for the Medicare-eligible population.

Some programs even include home fitness products, like workout DVDs and small exercise equipment.

To find out what plans in your area include a Medicare fitness benefit, call Medicare Plan Finder at 844-431-1832 or click here to send us a message. 

We can’t wait to help you!

Medicare Fitness Programs
Medicare Fitness Programs Guide

Home Health Tests Seniors Should Try

We’re all aware we should make an effort to regularly see our physicians. But we also know that life tends to get in the way. 

Especially for seniors, transportation and cost can often prevent routine doctor visits. However, just because you can’t get to your doctor’s office, doesn’t mean you have to stay in the dark about your health. There are quite a number of tests that you can perform without ever leaving home!

Tests You Can Do At Home Today

The range of at-home tests and testing methods varies widely. Some require expensive medical equipment only available through a supplier and with a prescription, while others require only a pen and paper. Here are some tests that you can do today with little to no supplies

SAGE Test for Dementia

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam, or SAGE, was devised by researchers from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. SAGE can help detect early warning signs of cognitive impairment and memory loss in less than 15 minutes.

The test has several components and several forms, all of which can be viewed and downloaded at the Wexner Medical Center’s website. These include sections on orientation, language, memory and visuospatial awareness.

The most well-known element of the SAGE is known as the clock drawing test. All you need to do is get out a pen and paper and draw a picture of a clock, with the hands reading 3:40. Then compare your drawing to a real clock to see how you scored.

If your circle is closed, give yourself a point. If all twelve numbers are accounted for and in the right place, you get two more points. If your hands are in the correct position as well, you passed with flying colors. A score of any less than three points, however, might be an indication that you should see your physician for further screening. This test is sometimes performed without the rest of the exam, though it is usually recommended to perform the entire SAGE test for dementia detection.

Medicare 101 Course
Free Medicare 101 Course

Window Test for Vision Loss

Our eyes take a lot of abuse these days from the onslaught of screens and artificial lighting. It’s even more severe as we get older and the natural, age-related loss of vision begins to take effect. If you experience some trouble reading, give yourself this informal at-home eye exam to judge whether or not you should seek an eye care professional.

First, sit across the room from a large window or door so that you can see all the lines of the frame around it. Cover one eye and focus on the window or door frame with your open one for 30 seconds. Then repeat with the opposite eye. The horizontal and vertical lines of the frame should be clearly visible with no missing or hazy areas. If the edges of the frame seem distorted or warped, this may indicate macular degeneration, a disease that is currently the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over 60.

Cushion Test for Peripheral Arterial Disease

The cushion test can be performed without even getting out of bed! It can help detect blocked arteries in your legs and feet, a condition known as PAD, or peripheral arterial disease. Those with high blood pressure or diabetes, both common among seniors, are especially at-risk for this disease. 

To perform this test, lie on a bed and elevate your legs with pillows or cushions until they are resting at a comfortable 45-degree angle. Keep them there for one minute, then sit up and swing your legs over the side of the bed so that they hang at an angle of 90 degrees. If either or both of your legs turn pale when elevated and take several minutes to return to their normal shade after sitting up, you may need to consult your physician with the results from this peripheral artery disease test.

Phalen’s Maneuver for Carpal Tunnel

We are an increasingly computer-savvy society and people of all ages are typing more than they used to. Extended periods of typing are strongly associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition caused by a pinched median nerve in the wrist, but many other activities like driving can bring on these symptoms as well. Furthermore, people over 55 years old are at a much higher risk and those over 65 are more likely to have cases that are severe.

Phalen’s maneuver is a test devised to diagnose carpal tunnel at home and has been shown to be surprisingly effective. To see for yourself, press the tops of your hands together with your fingers pointing toward the floor and your elbows extended. If you can, hold this position for a full minute. If you feel an unpleasant sensation, such as prickling, tingling, or burning, you may likely have carpal tunnel and should consider preventive measures.

Check out this video from Physiotutors on YouTube that explains how to perform the Phalen test:

Testing With Medical Equipment

Some at-home health tests will require special instruments to fully gauge the results. While many of these items can be freely obtained from online and brick-and-mortar retailers, some require ordering through a medical supplier with a doctor’s prescription. Below, we will detail some of the testing you can do at home with the help of specially-designed medical equipment.

Blood Sugar Test

For the 12 million seniors living with diabetes* (about 25% of those over the age of 65), monitoring blood sugar levels is an near-constant concern. Luckily, this is something that can be checked at home or on-the-go using a blood glucose monitor, or glucometer. These can be found online or in pharmacies in the form of kits, which include testing strips, needles (called lancets), and the glucometer itself. 

Read about Medicare coverage for Diabetes!

To test blood sugar at home, you will need to insert a test strip into the electronic monitor and prick the side of your finger with the provided lancet. Gently apply pressure to that finger until you see a drop of blood form, then touch it to the edge of the test strip. In just a few seconds, you will have an accurate metering of your current blood sugar levels, no matter where you are.

Blood Pressure Test

Along with heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature, blood pressure is one of the four most significant vital signs that our bodies produce. High blood pressure can be caused by countless factors like high cholesterol, stress, and even fear, and affects almost 70% of adults between the ages of 65 to 74. Monitoring blood pressure accurately is vitally important, as symptoms may not manifest until these levels are dangerously high. Doctors maintain accuracy by using large, costly machines but there are ways to test blood pressure at home with minimal equipment.

The quickest and most accurate results will come from automated, electronic blood pressure monitors that come with an upper arm cuff. Many different brands of at-home blood pressure cuff exist and can be found at pharmacies or similar retailers. The directions for use may change from model to model but there are certain rules that apply no matter what brand you use, including placing the cuff directly on the skin, placing the feet flat on the floor, elevating the arm to chest height, and avoiding smoking or drinking for 30 minutes before testing.

At-Home Lab Tests

Another popular method of in-home health testing comes in the form of test kits that can be ordered right to your door. These vary widely, not only in terms of what is being tested, but also in the method of sample collection. Some services will send a team of professionals to administer and retrieve your test, while others will only send instructions and require you to send your samples back in the mail for results. These can be purchased to test for a wide range of conditions, including food sensitivity, hormone testing, DNA testing, and other at-home blood tests.

Medicare DME Coverage

Medical equipment may be needed for certain tests.

Durable medical equipment, or DME, is a designation that Medicare uses to classify coverable medical equipment that can be used in the home. This benefit might be used to cover the cost of equipment to aid in the at-home testing we have already covered. The covered equipment can range from crutches and canes to CPAP devices and hospital beds, though it all must come from a Medicare-approved medical supplier.

Medicare-Approved Glucose Meters

Blood sugar monitors and test strips are usually covered under Medicare Part B as durable medical equipment for home use with a doctor’s prescription. You may be able to rent or buy a glucometer but Medicare will only provide coverage if both your physician and the supplier are both enrolled and participating in Medicare. Be sure to clarify this with your doctor and equipment supplier, as some may be enrolled but not “participating” and may not accept the cost of assignment.

Read more about durable medical equipment Medicare coverage.

Does Medicare Cover Blood Pressure Monitor?

Medicare Part B may cover the cost of a blood pressure monitor or ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) device but only under very specific circumstances. Part B will cover a blood pressure monitor and stethoscope for those who receive blood dialysis treatment in their home and will pay for the rental of an ABPM device for patients who have exhibited “white coat hypertension,” a phenomenon where nervousness in clinical settings causes artificially high blood pressure readings. 

For those with Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, all the benefits of Parts A & B will be covered but may also include additional benefits and expanded coverage. Contact your insurance company to find out if your Part C plan covers blood pressure monitors or glucometers.

If you don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan, give us a call at 844-431-1832 or contact us online to speak with a licensed agent and find a plan that can address your healthcare needs!

Fall Prevention: Tips, Tricks, and Exercises

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Falls can occur at any time and can range in severity.

Seniors and Medicare eligibles can suffer from significant injuries or pain. The average hospital cost for a fall injury can exceed $30,000. Fall prevention is important to help lower the risk of falling and potential injuries.

Preventing Falls at Home

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the majority of falls (60 percent!) occur in the home. Something as minor as a slippery spot on the floor or an electrical cord out of place can have devastating consequences.

Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to help reduce the risk of falling. The following are quick and easy suggestions that can give you a greater sense of security in your home:

Eliminate Clutter

If you have clutter in narrow or close areas, like hallways or staircases, you can easily trip or lose your balance. One of the easiest steps you can take is keeping your home clean and tidy by eliminating clutter and keeping your pathways clear.

Remove Hazards

Every room in your home should be free of tripping hazards. These hazards can include loose carpet, slippery rugs, damaged wood floorboards, etc. You should examine your home for these hazards and if you find one, remove or repair it. It is better to opt for carpet over hardwoods if possible.

Install Handrails

Woman Using Grab Bar
Woman Using Grab Bar

Grab bars and handrails can help to lower your risk of falling, especially in the bathroom. Install handrails near the toilet and bathtub and in hallways and stairwells. If you are unable to install these yourself, contact a handyman or a family member.

Wear Properly Fitting Clothes

Everyone wants to be comfortable and able to relax in their home, but did you know that baggy clothes can make you more likely to fall? Wear clothes that are the proper length, and avoid wearing anything that drags on the floor.

Wear shoes or non-slip slippers when possible. Socks can be slippery and increase your risk of falling. Non-slip socks are great alternatives that help maintain comfort and lower your risk of falling.

Create Light

It’s important that your home is well lit so you can see where you are walking. Install brighter light bulbs in dark, high-risk falling areas like hallways or stairwells. Plus, night-lights in bathrooms or hallways can help you see during any time of the night.

Preventing Falls in Hospitals

If you are in a hospital for any given reason, there is a risk of falling, especially if you are staying long-term. If you need to get up or go to the bathroom, use the call light or ask the nurse for help.

Some medicines can make you feel sleepy or dizzy, so when you are getting up, move slowly. Be sure to wear your glasses or hearing aids when you are up and moving around.

Plus, use a walker or cane because bedside tables, IV poles, and other objects cannot provide the proper support. Lastly, if you have any concerns about your safety, be sure to alert the nursing staff.

How Can Seniors Prevent Falls?

Fall Prevention Exercise - Medicare Plan Finder
Fall Prevention Exercise – Medicare Plan Finder

Exercising is a great way to increase your balance and help lower your risk of falling. These exercises can help strengthen your muscles, and when completed regularly, improve your muscles and joints. The following are great exercises that help prevent falls:

Chair Sit to Stand

Find a sturdy chair with arms. Practice getting in and out of the chair and focus on utilizing your leg muscles. Use the arms of the chair to help you get up, but as you improve, try using only one hand. Aim for 10 repetitions.

Marching in Place

Have a chair nearby in case you lose your balance. Practice marching in place, but bring your knees as high as you can. Use your muscles instead of your momentum. Aim for 10 knee raises on each leg.

Balance on One Leg

Find a sturdy surface like a chair or countertop. Use these surfaces for support. Raise one leg and try to find your balance while standing on the other. Aim for 10-15 seconds per leg.

Toe to Heel

Hold onto a chair or countertop. Raise up onto the balls of your feet and hold for a few seconds, then relax into a normal stance. Next, rock back on your heels and hold for a few seconds. Aim for ten repetitions.

Injuries and Complications

As we mentioned above, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Did you know one out of five falls will result in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury?

These injuries can make living your day-to-day life difficult. Plus, if you have vitamin d deficiency or take certain medications like sedatives or antidepressants, your risk of falling increases. Common injuries from falling include:

  • Head injuries
  • Hip fractures
  • Back and spinal injuries
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles
  • Neck injuries

What to Do If You Fall

In the unfortunate incident you do fall and you live alone, you may consider buying a medical alert system to contact emergency personnel. A medical alert system is a device that you wear that features a button you can push to call for help. The systems usually come with monthly fees, but Life Alert and other medical alert devices can help provide peace of mind.

You can also keep a cordless phone or smartphone with you at all times, so you can call for help if you fall.

Another option is wearing a smartwatch. According to NPR, the Apple Watch can detect when a user has fallen, and the device will generate a notification to emergency personnel. If you don’t respond for more than a minute after the alert, the watch can automatically call for help and send “a message with location to emergency contacts.”

Does Medicare Cover Fall Injuries?

Medicare generally covers most expenses if you have a fall. If you are admitted to a hospital from your injuries, Part A may cover this expense or any necessary treatments.

Your Part A deductible and coinsurance may apply after 60 days. If you go to an emergency room, doctor’s office, or clinic due to a fall, Part B generally covers these expenses. Similar to Part A, your deductible, coinsurance, or copay payment amounts may apply.

Fall prevention is one of many ways to remain proactive and practice a healthy lifestyle. Medicare Advantage plans can offer even more benefits and coverage that help you become the healthiest version of you. Many MA plans offer hearing, dental, and vision coverage, and some even offer group fitness classes like SilverSneakers®.

If you are interested in arranging a free, no-obligation appointment with a top agent, call us at 833-438-3676 or fill out this form.

*This post was originally published on November 13, 2018. Last Updated on October 18, 2019.

The 4 Vaccines Seniors Need This Year

Every year when the temperature drops, you begin to hear those dreaded words: flu season. 

Not only does cold weather weaken our immune systems, it can strengthen viruses and make it easier for them to spread. No matter your age, vaccination may be the best safeguard against this bacterial onslaught. But adults over 50 are especially susceptible to the flu virus and many other dangerous infections like pneumonia and tetanus. An estimated 50,000 to 90,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable diseases every year and the mortality rates increase significantly as we age.

The Most Important Vaccines For Seniors

Luckily, in our current century, vaccinations are widely available for many of these potentially deadly pathogens and the Center for Disease Control recommends a schedule of specific vaccinations for older adults. And for seniors with certain types of Medicare, financial help may even be available to alleviate some of the costs of these immunizations. Here are the four most crucial vaccines for adults over 50.

Influenza (Flu) Shot

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral respiratory infection that can be life-threatening for people of any age. But older adults must be especially cautious, as the normal aging of our immune systems can make it more difficult for our bodies to fight off the infection. It’s even more dangerous for those who live with a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, as complications can develop and even lead to hospitalization. In fact, according to the CDC, adults over 65 make up half of all influenza hospitalizations and between 70 to 90% of all flu-related deaths. Be sure to get your flu shot!

Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal disease might not be a familiar household name but we have all heard of the conditions that it can lead to: pneumonia and meningitis among others. It is the most common cause of bloodstream infections and can infect the ear and sinuses as well. Like the flu, a weakened immune system and chronic conditions may increase these risks. While these infections can often be mild, pneumonia is actually the 5th most frequent cause of hospitalization in the United States and over half of those are from Americans over 65 years old.

Tetanus (Td) Shot

It’s often referred to simply as a tetanus shot, but the Tdap vaccine also helps our bodies fight off diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough. This particular vaccine can usually only be given once but if you never received it as a child, it’s not too late to get yourself immunized. But if those over 65 have already gotten the full Tdap shot, it is recommended that they seek the variety of vaccine called the Td shot every 10 years, which doesn’t include the pertussis component.

Shingles (Zoster) Vaccine

Herpes zoster (or shingles) is a painful skin condition brought on by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It’s common knowledge that individuals who have previously contracted chickenpox have a higher risk of developing shingles, but older people are also more vulnerable than their younger counterparts. Seniors are also more at risk for the complications that can arise from this infection, such as the painful nerve condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). These kinds of complications occur in almost half of older adults who develop shingles.  

When Should Seniors Get Vaccinated?

Though many vaccine-preventable diseases are associated with seasonal changes, most can be contracted at any time of year. To help make sure you are up-to-date with all your immunizations, the CDC keeps the newest recommended vaccine schedule for adults on its website.

Vaccine Schedule For Adults

Experts in this field often suggest vaccination schedules based on age. In some cases, these experts also recommend different varieties of a given vaccine depending on the age of the patient. 

For example, flu vaccines are updated annually to make sure they are effective against the current strains of influenza. Additionally, the immunity provided by the flu shot is short-lived so it is best to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccines are usually available from September through April depending on supplies. Several different forms of the vaccine exist including two designed specifically for people over 65, namely the “high dose vaccine” and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. 

The shingles vaccine, on the other hand, is not required during a specific season but there are multiple variations available and it may still require a schedule to keep track of. The CDC suggests that healthy adults over 50 get the two-dose version of the vaccine, called the zoster recombinant vaccine (or RZV), as opposed to the single-dose zoster live variant. The two doses are generally spaced out over several months but are roughly 90% effective once they have both been administered.  

Travel Vaccinations

Many seniors take up traveling after retirement has freed up more of their time. Wherever this trekking may take you, it is wise to stay up-to-date on your vaccinations. Certain vaccine-preventable illnesses like measles and seasonal flu are much more prevalent abroad than they are in the States. Check for your destination on the CDC’s website to see what vaccines may be needed where you’re going.

Learn how to get Medicare coverage overseas.

Where Is The Best Place To Get Vaccinated?

Now that you know when to get immunized, you might be wondering where you can get a quick, efficient, and affordable vaccination. This can get somewhat complicated depending on what vaccines you need and what state you live in but most vaccines can be administered at one of the healthcare facilities you visit regularly.

Doctor’s Office 

Doctor explaining Medicare vaccine coverage.

Even though many other options are available, most will likely prefer to get their vaccinations at their regular doctor’s office. Your primary care doctor is a great resource not only for detailed information about what vaccines you or your family may need, but obviously for the administering of the vaccine itself. They can also advise on which variety of a given vaccine is best for you, as well as any side effects that may accompany it. 

Pharmacies & Clinics

For many seniors, the most readily and easily available venue for vaccines is their local pharmacy. These establishments are usually closer to their homes than a doctor’s office or hospital and can provide many of the same vaccinations. It is probably best to call ahead to ensure the pharmacy or clinic is stocked with the vaccine you need as supplies can run low.

Medicare Vaccine Coverage

An often overlooked element of the threat posed by vaccine-preventable diseases is the financial cost. A 2007 study of the seasonal flu found that $87 billion was spent every year on direct and indirect medical costs. It also found that adults over 65 made up about 64% of that cost. Clearly, it is cheaper to get vaccinated than to potentially incur the medical expenses of treating the disease itself but if the cost of immunization still seems daunting, there are options available to help with or completely cover the vaccines.

Does Medicare Pay For Flu Shots?

Flu shots are completely covered by Medicare Part B, as they are categorized as a preventive service. As long as your healthcare provider accepts Medicare, your annual flu shot will be a cost-free benefit. For those who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may need to see an in-network doctor or pharmacy to be totally covered. This complete coverage applies to the pneumococcal vaccine as well!

Does Medicare Pay For Shingles Vaccine?

Medicare Part D plans, which are Medicare Advantage plans that cover prescription drugs, virtually all cover the shingles vaccine. As these are supplemental plans, an out-of-pocket cost is usually associated with these vaccinations. Whether this is in the form of a copayment or coinsurance, it is best to contact your insurance provider directly to discuss the potential out-of-pocket cost, as well as any specific rules they might have for the administering of the vaccine itself.

Turning 65 Checklist
Turning 65 Checklist

Does Medicare Pay For Tetanus Shots?

Like the shingles vaccine, neither Td and Tdap versions of the tetanus shot are covered by Medicare Part B. These vaccines will need to be covered by an insurance plan that includes prescription drug coverage, such as Medicare Part D. These plans are purchased through private insurance companies and supplement the coverage provided by the original components of Medicare. 

Depending on where you live, there could be countless Medicare Advantage plan options available and finding the one that best suits you can be exhausting and outright confusing. Take out some of the guesswork and get in touch with a licensed agent through Medicare Plan Finder today to find the best plan for your needs! Call us at 833-438-3676 or contact us online to get started!  

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