Englewood resident Bruce Meyer was surprised to learn he was a finalist for the 2013 Richard L. Swanson Inspirational Award, honoring members of the SilverSneakers program whose healthy behavior has made a difference in his or her life while motivating others.
“I managed to dodge exercise for 30 years or more. So, I never expected to be honored for exercising,” he said. “I got motivated to begin working out when, in 1998, I had a heart attack that scared me. My wife is a nurse and she insisted I begin exercising and trying to lose weight. We did a lot of walking and then, six years ago, we came to Malley and they inspired me to get serious about exercise. Now, I don’t know that I inspire others, but I have lost 40 pounds, I am having fun and look forward to each of the sessions.”
SilverSneakers is a national fitness program designed exclusively for older adults and is available to 10 million eligible members through health care and retirement plans.
The Swanson award is an annual event sponsored by Healthways, an independent company seeking to create a healthier world, one person at a time.
The process leading up to the award began early this year when Gina Fontaine, Malley program administrator, talked to Meyer about his story and then asked him if it was OK to nominate him for a SilverSneakers award.
He said it would be fine to nominate him for the award. Then, he sort of forgot about the whole thing until, in early September, he got a phone call from Healthways headquarters in Arizona telling him he was one of the finalist for the national award.
“I wasn’t sure about the call at first and almost hung up,” he said with a smile. “But I listened and the woman from Healthways told me there had been more than 300 nominations and I had been selected as one of the five finalists. I was shocked.”
There was a celebration at the Malley Senior Recreation Center on Sept. 23 to present Meyer his award. He said it turned out to be a lot of people and a real fun party.
He said coming to Malley really helped him focus on exercising and getting fit.
“Malley, its staff and this organization is very special,” Meyer said. “I have never liked to exercise and still don’t. But the people here provide a special support system, everyone is concerned about you and encourages you to keep going. You feel safe, you make friends and there is a lot of socializing that goes along with being active here at Malley.”
He said he really became hooked when he became part of the Malley advisory committee.
“The city took a brave step to allow the Malley advisory committee because it is made up of people like me who feel like we own this place,” he said. “We want to see all kinds of improvements to make it better and we want to see more people join us because we feel we want more people join us and have as much fun as we are having getting fit.”
The 72-year-old said he is at Malley for classes four or five times a week.
“I plan to keep this system going as long as I am able,” he said. “I still don’t like to exercise but I like the results. I hope, in some way, I can help more people see Malley is great and will help get them involved in programs that will help them live fun and active lives.”