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Creating a community of healthy elders at Kent State

Words by Hallie Saculla
Photo by Mia DiLorento

While the Student Recreation and Wellness Center (REC) employees swipe FLASHcards each day, they also welcome those over the age of 65. It’s no secret that these senior citizens are just as well-versed on living a happy, healthy lifestyle as their younger counterparts.

SilverSneakers is a nationwide health, exercise and wellness program helping baby boomers and beyond live healthy, active lifestyles. With over 13,000 locations, the program prides itself on making fitness fun and accessible to members 65 and older.

“The most rewarding part of being their instructor is having an impact in improving their health by way of exercise and being physically active,” Lilian Kolodziej, an instructor for SilverSneakers at Kent State, says. “They have made progress in their fitness level; the cardio, range of movement and balance has improved.”

Kolodziej started instructing SilverSneakers classes in Kent in 2010. Since then, the program has increased by 1,000 members.

SilverSneakers offers three types of classes to members: classic, splash and circuit. While not all members of the program take part in the classes, their membership enables them to access all factions of the REC.

Many of the members of SilverSneakers are also alumni of Kent State and enjoy staying involved with the university through the program.

“I think that SilverSneakers members always feel connected to Kent State,” Kolodziej says. “I also think it’s important because the senior members serve as role models and inspiration for the younger generation.”

While sharing the facility with Kent State students, SilverSneakers members feel they are in a welcoming environment each time they walk into the REC.

“I’ve taught for 28 years at the University of Akron, so I’ve seen all kinds [of students], and the kids and employees here are great,” Ralph Darr, a SilverSneakers member, says. “They really create a nice atmosphere.”

SilverSneakers also encourages comradery among members. The REC even holds a Halloween party each year for the members. With one common goal of improving their health, members find the support of one another motivating in this friendly community.

“My favorite part of SilverSneakers is the community more than the exercise; it’s really important to me,” David Reith, another member of the program, says. “We’re a fun group. We all get along. We do things together whether it’s a picnic, party or lunch once a month.”

With every session, the purpose of SilverSneakers is for members to leave as a better version of themselves than when they walked through the doors.

“A few members had to undergo major surgery and feel that the exercises helped them a lot in their recovery,” Kolodziej says. “The goal of SilverSneakers is for them and others to lead an active lifestyle in order to be healthy.”

For more information on SilverSneakers, visit or contact the REC Pro Shop at recservices@kent.edu.

Hallie Saculla is the fitness and recreation reporter for The Burr.

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