Final Project

December 20, 2010

Sevasti Giamaras
English 379: Modern Protest Literature of the Pacific
Final Project
December 14, 2010

I Love My Silver Sneaker Seniors

The community that I willingly decided to work with for this project is the seniors at my job, specifically the Silver Sneakers seniors. Silver Sneakers is an organization that works with seniors ages sixty-five and up to help them better themselves through exercise. The organization provides us with several instructors who specialize in geriatric fitness and health. They hold classes, teach them exercise techniques the seniors can use outside the gym on their own and so much more. They even have personal one on one sessions with the seniors to check up on them and try to assist them if they are having any complications working out due to an illness or injury. If they see a senior is having a medical problem, they will help set them up with the right physician to take care of them. In the classes, the seniors get the opportunity to socialize with one another as well and get free stuff like magnets, playing cards and awesome coupons. Basically, Silver Sneakers is their like second family and for many of these seniors, their only family.
I’ve been working at The Rock Health and Fitness Club for over two years now and in this time period, I have grown very attached to the senior community there. They would always stop by my desk for a quick chit chat and bring me cookies, tea, small gifts, or some type of treat that would undoubtedly brighten up my day. But when I found out that a lot of my seniors weren’t able to attend class and were getting kicked out of the program, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
The thing with Silver Sneakers is that you need to attend the gym at least twenty times a month and take at least two classes a week in order to be part of the program. If you can’t make it to the allotted number of visits and classes each month, you get penalized and if you continue to mess up, after three months you get kicked out of the program. As I recently discovered, a lot of seniors are not able to make it to gym that often and are losing their Silver Sneakers privileges. What upset me even more is the reason behind their declining attendance, transportation issues. Many seniors don’t have the means to get to the gym so I figured out a way that would that I could help them help themselves.
I found and contacted a bunch of transportation services that specialized in senior transport methods. Many of these services were private and really expensive, like iTNAmerica Dignified transportation for seniors and NCST National Center on Senior Transport. When I called NCST, they told me that they had “great” offer: a package of twenty rides a month, drop-off and pick-up, for around three-hundred dollars. I was sure that my seniors wouldn’t be interested in such a costly means of transportation, so I decided to contact some more inexpensive services.
I figured the cheapest and best way to go was with public transportation, the good ol’ MTA. I called and spoke with someone from Access-A-Ride, an affiliate of the MTA, and visited their website as well. Basically, their policy is that you must call to make an appointment with one of their interviewers. At the interview, you will be asked a couple of questions and get checked out by a health care professional. Approximately twenty-one days after your appointment, you’re supposed to receive a letter claiming your eligibility. If you have full eligibility, you are granted to use Access-A-Ride whenever you please, as long as you call ahead of time to arrange your pick-up schedule. The best part of it all is that each ride is only $2.25, the same price that a full-fare metro card charges you.
I also visited and spoke with Mrs. Susie from the MTA office in lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, she was very rude and unhelpful. All that she told me was that all the information the seniors need to apply for a reduced-fare metro card can be found on the website and that if the seniors chose not to act upon it then it was their fault since all the information is laid out in front of them. She then went on to complain about how much the seniors complain and how it couldn’t be any easier. All they have to do is fill out an application that they print out from the website, sent a passport photo and a copy of their birth certificate or any other proof of age that they have. To be truthful, the application for reduced-fare metro card is in fact easy, a lot easier than applying for Access-A-Ride, but she didn’t have to be so bad-mannered and discourteous. And one thing she failed to recognize is that many seniors do not have access to the internet and those who do, don’t really know how to use it. Another option the seniors have is going in person to apply and they receive the metro card on the spot, but the office doesn’t like to deal with them when they don’t have to.
After I compiled all this information, I then created about a hundred or so pamphlets sharing my newly acquired data and placed them on the counter, next to the computer. I also made sure to make the print reader friendly since the seniors’ eyes are weak. In addition, I included, in extra large print, “DON’T FORGET TO ASK FOR YOUR REDUCED-FARE METRO CARD APPLICATION AT THE FRONT DESK NOW!” But I put two-dozen reduced-fare metro card applications alongside the pamphlets, just in case.
It has been two and a half weeks since I first created the pamphlets and they have been flying off the counter. After speaking with the seniors, applying for the reduced-fare metro card was the most popular option. Many of them weren’t even aware that there was such thing. They were familiar with the iconic yellow metro card, but they just didn’t know what, exactly, it was for. But after I explained to them the concept, they all got super excited. Not only would it help them get to the gym, but they could now go to other places as well, and it would just make their lives a lot easier. One senior that I spoke to in particular, named Ara, told me how after applying for his reduced-fare metro card he felt inspired and applied for a library card as well. He also told me that the metro card is going to come in handy, especially now that the winter is coming, and he won’t have an excuse as to why he can’t leave the house.
As far as the Access-A-Ride van service segment of my project goes, some of the seniors already used the van service so they weren’t very interested in the application information I provided. But some of the other details I included about renewing their status, guest rides and late pick-ups did catch their attention. It is ludicrous to even think how every senior that I spoke to who used Access-A-Ride, did not know that their guest could ride for free. All they had to do was just call and claim them as their PCA or personal care attendant. They felt bamboozled and cheated that this whole time they were paying for an extra ticket because nobody from Access-A-Ride made this clear to them. Another thing they didn’t know either was that if the van is more that thirty minutes late picking them up, they can take a taxicab and Access-A-Ride will reimburse them. Upon receiving all this information, many of the seniors felt like they were scammed out of their money but they were pleased that I told them.
I was so glad that I was able to work with a group of people that I felt very close to in my heart. I speak for all senior citizens, not just Silver Sneakers, when I say no one really understands how helpless and lonely these people really are. It doesn’t take much to spend a little bit of your time to lend them a hand. Even if you can’t help out much, just showing that you care really goes a long way and makes the seniors feel loved. When I started off this project, I, personally, wanted to help out the senior community at my job because I have such a close bond with them. But looking back on my project, in retrospect, it has become so much more and as a matter of fact, I’m fairly pleased with the results. My most exciting achievement from this project, however, didn‘t come from me; it came from other members. Hearing about my mission from word of mouth, members began coming up to me and asking me if they can help. They’d offer to drive a senior to the gym and back home if their exercise schedules fell into the same time frame. My managers and coworkers, too, have helped out a lot; they offered to print any reduced-fare metro card applications whenever I’m not there. The Silver Sneakers instructors were also of assistance by making announcements in the classes about my pamphlets.
I can say I’m very proud of myself for putting together such a great movement in the gym. But I’m mostly proud of the seniors. The whole purpose of Silver Sneakers to help seniors help themselves and I feel that my project fits into that goal. I was touched to hear how I’ve inspired seniors like Ara do more than just attend gym and complete his Silver Sneakers requirements. And as a matter of fact, I kind of felt inspired and thought of starting a second movement in my workplace; to give awareness to all the members about library cards. I even went out and got my library card renewed.
I started off this project expecting the seniors to not care about the transportation information I had compiled. To be honest, they are stubborn people and hard to work with. But to my surprise, they proved me wrong. They completely ate up everything I had to say and by a week later, at least half of the pamphlets were gone. I never expected to have that much of an impact of these people and I anticipated my efforts to go to waste.
And after speaking with Ara, I was on cloud nine to hear that my project had escalated so much. I’m happy I chose to work with Silver Sneakers.

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