EDMONDS, Wash.— Out for one of his regular power walks along the Edmonds waterfront, Art Furbush knows the power of exercise.
“You get to be 70 years old and things start to fall apart,” he said, keeping a brisk pace. “You’ve got to work at keeping it together.”
Furbush survived a heart attack and open heart surgery, but thanks to his fitness regimen, at 70 years old he is happy and healthy.
“They put a new part in, and as long as you keep moving and exercise, you’re fine,” he said.
Furbush used to work out at the Shoreline YMCA, until the King County chapter decided to eliminate the Medicare benefit he used to pay for it.
“I didn’t think the YMCA would do that to the seniors,” he lamented.
Furbush was part of “Silver Sneakers,” a Medicare fitness program hosted by the “Y” for the past 12 years. As of January 1, the program will no longer be offered.
“We don’t want the seniors anymore. That’s the way you feel,” said Furbush.
A standard senior membership for the YMCA is $57 per month. Silver Sneakers members paid just $14, according to Furbush. There are 3,000 active users of the benefit in King County, with 3,000 more inactive. That works out to $129,000 a month that the budget strapped, non-profit could be making. The YMCA switched to a sliding scale program, which, even at its lowest, is still $5 per month more expensive than Silver Sneakers.
Administrators, however, argue the change has nothing to do with money. They say the decision was made after reviewing their agreement with a third party broker.
“Under the contract, we weren’t even allowed to speak with Silver Sneakers members,” said Wendy Bart, VP of membership for King County’s YMCA. She also said administrators determined it wasn’t fair that some people with insurance were paying so little while other members paid more.
Bart said the “Y” will still offer the same classes and programs as Silver Sneakers, and she hopes the higher fee will not keep people from coming back.
“It’s our mission to serve our community,” she said. “We’ll make every accommodation people need to continue. If five dollars a month is all they can afford, we’ll make that accommodation.”