Silver Sneakers

Silver Sneakers

The great Roman statesman Cicero put it this way: “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.”

He’d get no argument from Fred Harvey of Kansas City, Missouri.

At the age of 88, Harvey is a regular attendee of Silver Sneakers, a program offered through Kansas City Parks and Recreation. Designed for seniors ages 60 and up, the program mixes cardio and weightlifting with the power of positive thinking. The classes are included with a community center membership and are covered through many insurance programs.

Each class generally draws about 20 participants.

Parks and Recreation shifted the program outside when most the community centers closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes from the Marlborough and Brush Creek community centers met at Swope Park.

One Tuesday morning in the summer saw Harvey amble up to one of the classes at the Swope Interpretive Center.

The class had been canceled at the last moment, but that was OK with Harvey, since he got to see his pal Sheronda Stonum, who leads some of the classes as the senior recreation director at Marlborough Community Center. She had shown up just in case people hadn’t gotten the word about the cancellation.

Born and raised in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, Harvey has lived in Kansas City for decades. He lives just minutes from Swope Park. He still drives.

For years, he and his wife ran a sign manufacturing company at 5841 Swope Parkway.

Harvey praised Silver Sneaker instructors for taking an interest in their attendees and listening to their feedback.

Harvey has a simple explanation for staying active. “Well,” he said. “You stay away from the undertaker.”

Some of the diehards get in some walking before the Silver Sneakers sessions. In the summer, they got started as early as 7:30 a.m. to beat the heat.

As Harvey chatted with Stonum, the trio of Michelle Jones, Vernetta Hamilton and Gwen Thomas rounded the corner. They had just completed about a 3.5-mile walk.

At age 60, Thomas battles arthritis and various other aches and pains. She graduated from Central High School, where she was a multi-sport athlete.

She spent 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving in a law-enforcement capacity for much of her time in the service.

Thomas stays active through gardening and home-improvement projects, too. She needs muscle for that. It’s on her to move around the lumber she uses for the upgrades.

Exercising in a group is the best for her. On your own, she said, it’s hard to push yourself – especially when the refrigerator beckons.

Thomas had plopped down in Stonum’s chair after the walk, and the small group got to talking. It was then that Thomas found out Harvey’s age.

“Oh my gosh,” she exclaimed. “I want to go grow up and be like Mr. Fred!”

Story by Mike Sherry