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Wellness and Wildlife: Seniors Celebrated Heart Month at the San Diego Zoo

Blue Shield of California and SilverSneakers hosted seniors for a series of stretching exercises at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

This story is also available in Spanish.

Blue Shield member Liz Shopes, right, and friend, with SilverSneakers national trainer Trent David

Blue Shield of California members and others from San Diego’s vibrant senior community recently enjoyed instructor-led stretching, as zoo animals looked on as their audience in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

In collaboration with Blue Shield of California and SilverSneakers, a lifestyle program for seniors, the event was the finale of the zoo’s “Seniors Free” month and also marked the end of February’s Heart Health Month. It provided an opportunity to connect with other members and seniors, see wildlife and experience the positive impact of movement and exercise on their overall well-being.

“While most understand the advantages of exercise, as we age, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize more physical activity to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Alex Uhm, vice president and general manager of Medicare at Blue Shield of California. “Building and fostering a community with shared goals helps provide motivation to be active, and events like stretching at the San Diego Zoo for seniors add extra enjoyment to the process.”

Live from the Zoo

Participants at the San Diego Zoo event were encouraged to prioritize preventive care and stay active to improve their overall health and quality of life. They were led through a series of stretches to promote flexibility and movement, and provided free admission as part of the zoo’s “Seniors Free” month to create a welcoming, community-centric environment.

A few Blue Shield members who participated in the event shared why they attended, what motivates them to get moving, and their advice for others interested in making healthier choices:

Blue Shield member Denise Seyfarth learning about heart health resources

“I love the Safari Park, and I’d already taken a class from Trent (SilverSneakers national trainer), so I thought that was fun. I definitely recommend the SilverSneakers program — I like the online classes when I can’t make it to the gym. Exercise is so important, especially to us older people.” — Liz Shopes, 67, San Diego

“I like taking advantage of the SilverSneakers program. I used to do a lot of half marathons, and I’m trying to get back into that. I thought this event would be a good walking activity, plus you get to see the park and animals. I had two recent deaths in my family and was struggling with being active, so when I saw this event, I didn’t think twice to stop by and start getting on back on track with healthy habits.” — Denise Seyfarth, 67, San Diego

“It’s a matter of balance. Every day you should be working towards balance with sleep, exercise, water and food, socializing and whatever else you have to do for your family and yourself.” — Christine Craycroft, 74, Orange County  

Blue Shield member Christine Craycroft, left, and friend Kari Roberson drove from Orange County to San Diego

Movement Matters

Regular physical activity helps protect against heart disease and reduces risk of heart attack, and it helps people think and feel better throughout the day. Federal guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of both).

Whether engaging in aerobic activities, muscle-strengthening exercises or simply sitting down less, movement matters.

In a recent survey of SilverSneakers members, 70% of participants discovered they could do more physical activities than they thought possible. They also reported remarkable health improvements, with 76% experiencing better mental health and 58% seeing positive changes in sciatica, diabetes and coronary artery disease.

“If they say do 10 reps, and you can only do two, still do two. You’ll be able to work up, and it will improve your health and mobility,” shared Blue Shield member Christine Craycroft during the zoo’s event. “Do as much as you can. It’s better to do something than nothing.”

SilverSneakers – Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Blue Shield of California Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Supplement plans can enroll in SilverSneakers. This benefit provides no-cost memberships at participating gyms across the country as well as live and on-demand virtual classes you can do from home. To see if you’re eligible, click here.

Y0118_24_144A_C Accepted 03182024

H2819_24_144A_C Accepted 03182024