Aging happens to us all with each passing day, month and year. Aging actively is an entirely different proposition. It's a dedication to the latter that drives Tivity Health to connect nearly 75 million eligible members nationwide to programming that supports living longer by living well.
Richard Ashworth, PharmD, MBA, joined Tivity Health in June 2020 as president, chief executive officer and a member of the company's board of directors. Although fairly new to Tivity Health, Ashworth spent nearly 30 years with Walgreens, beginning on the front lines as a pharmacist.
"As a pharmacist, I spent the majority of my career helping people when they were sick," Ashworth said. "I saw a lot of people who were not living their lives in a way they could or should. I wanted to try to get in front of that to help people before they need medications, and I believe that an active lifestyle and social engagement play a critical role on health and well-being."
Tivity Health has three core brands focused on that mission. Prime® Fitness connects employees to approximately 12,000 fitness facilities across the country to support a commitment to regular exercise. WholeHealth Living® is a managed network of chiropractic, physical therapy, therapeutic massage, acupuncture and complementary alternative medicine providers to reduce pain. Perhaps the most famous, SilverSneakers® has become the country's premier community fitness program for older adults.
About 18 million seniors are eligible for SilverSneakers, which utilizes more than 15,000 facilities across the country for interactive classes. "Moving is such an important component of longevity," Ashworth said. "We want people to live the last third of their lives in the best shape they've ever been in."
However, he's quick to add the program is about so much more than movement. The classes also provide participants with social connection and engagement.
"I love that our program is not only fun and accessible but that it actually works," Ashworth said, pointing to a recent independent study by Avalere Health that found participating in SilverSneakers reduced healthcare costs by 16 percent. With the average out-of-pocket Medicare cost for individuals being about $5,300 per year, this means that participants in the Tivity program saw that average drop to $4,460.
During the early days of the pandemic with so much uncertainty, the company recognized a need to keep seniors moving and find an outlet with some sense of normalcy and engagement. "We knew the business model was going to have some pressure. A lot of gyms were temporarily closed," Ashworth said.
The result was to create virtual programming. In addition to answering a need for SilverSneakers participants, the interactive classes opened the door to a larger audience, resulting in a doubling of participation.
Although most gyms have now reopened, Tivity Health research has shown that 84 percent of people using the digital product will continue to do so even after adding in-person classes back into the mix. Building off this digital success, Tivity is rolling out SilverSneakers Connect at the beginning of 2022. "We are launching a national social platform that has nothing to do with fitness but is all about connecting people with similar interests," Ashworth said.
The pandemic underscored the importance of human connection to an overall sense of well-being. Tivity conducts an ongoing healthy living survey for older adults, and recently found that 39 percent of seniors had experienced social isolation in the last week.
Building off a successful pilot program, Ashworth said reaction to the new platform has been incredibly positive. Finding someone who shares your enthusiasm for college sports, swapping recipes or discussing books provides a reason to get up each morning and get engaged. And that is key to living well longer.