SUCCESS STORY / Sherry Deaton, 71: Silver sneakered her way to health

Sherry Deaton, 71, of White Plains, Ga., changed her health through Silver Sneakers

When she started: Sherry Deaton began her journey in 2019.

Personal life: “I live in White Plains, Ga., on Lake Oconee with my husband, Ray. We will be married 30 years this year,” Deaton said. “I am retired from Lucent Technologies.”

The lifestyle change: “Although my story is not a weight-loss journey, it is an important story in remaining mobile while aging. I had fallen a couple of times and tripped and didn’t catch myself — that sent alarm bells off,” Deaton said. “A friend suggested that I join a gym because her balance had improved so much by working out. I didn’t want to fall again.” After being quite active for many years, Deaton was having joint pains and experienced reduced mobility. Her knees were getting worse. “I knew that knee replacement was in my near future. After hitting 70, I was having trouble getting up from a chair. Getting down and up from the floor to love on my German shepherd was a major undertaking,” she said. “But the worst problem I was having was tripping and falling because of the lack of good balance.” Deaton decided to give the gym a go and joined the Silver Sneakers program at Lake Oconee Family Fitness. “Since my insurance covered it, I thought what have I got to lose by trying?” Deaton said. Silver Sneakers provides free memberships to eligible senior citizens at participating gyms. To check eligibility, go to silversneakers.com. “The motto for Silver Sneakers is: Get fit, have fun, and make friends,” she said. “The making friends part has been a wonderful addition to my life.”

Exercise routine: Deaton works out three times a week. “We do hundreds of reps per class, which has greatly increased my strength,” she said.

Sherry’s how-tos:

1. Joined a gym: “At first, you make yourself go — half of it is getting there. After a few months, I wanted to go — I wanted to see my new friends.”

2. Made it a habit: “I had the incentive to make myself feel better, and every time I went, I would feel a little better.”

3. Started where she was: “I started out doing 2 pounds, and now I’m up to 5. I’ve improved a lot. I used to huff and puff, now I don’t.”

Her biggest challenge: “At first, it was getting up and going all the time because I’m 30 minutes from the gym — that was the challenge originally. But once I got going, you couldn’t stop me. The social part is a very important part of it — now I’m going to see my friends.”

How her life has changed: “Even though weight loss was not my goal, I have lost 8 pounds over time. With the help of my two trainers at the gym, I have achieved my goal of less joint pain and better mobility — my life as a senior citizen has greatly improved. ... After two years of these classes, I now pop right out of a chair and can easily get off the floor. My knees and other joints have quit hurting. But the best benefit of all is that I have caught myself several times from falling.”

Sherry’s top tips:

1. Join the gym: “Get off your butt and join the gym! Silver Sneakers is free, even if you don’t want to join a class, you can do the machines. Your insurance will pay for it.”

2. Use it or lose it: “The old saying if you don’t use it, you lose it. Keep using it so you don’t lose it.”

3. Beyond the scale: “Weight loss is not the only reason to get into shape. It will make you feel better.”