Meet Your 2022 SilverSneakers Members of the Year
Mary and Larry St. Germain set out to stay active — and found strong friendships along the way.
Cajun culture? That’s about way more than shrimp boils and Mardi Gras. For Mary and Larry St. Germain of St. Charles Parish, along the Mississippi River in Louisiana, being Cajun is all about family — with some gumbo on the side.
When their two sons got married and moved a few hours away from their childhood home in southern Louisiana, it only made sense that Mary, 75, and Larry, 77, would pack up and find a place nearby.
After all, explains Larry, "We're Cajuns, and everything revolves around the family. Sunday dinners means the whole crowd sitting around the table. And even though we've left our hometown, we still practice that tradition today with our boys and our grandchildren."
These days, though, the family circle is a whole lot wider, thanks to SilverSneakers. "When we came here ten years ago," Larry recalls, "we hardly knew anyone. But when we joined SilverSneakers, that all changed. It helped us to meet so many people."
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Building Strength — and Bonds — With SilverSneakers
The couple started out with a beginner-friendly, low-impact cardio class. Before they knew it, they were going to the gym four days a week, doing higher-level classes and even getting into yoga.
“We found friends right away,” Mary recalls. “The trainers are so good, and they’ve really helped everyone in the class get to know each other.”
Now their SilverSneakers Community group does way more than just workouts. They meet for arts and crafts sessions, listen to guest speakers, and serve up a potluck lunch every month, with a table of everyone's specialties and a big cake to mark all the upcoming birthdays.
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“Joining the gym got me started,” says Mary, “and SilverSneakers drew me right in. Now Larry and I have extended ourselves everywhere.”
Larry agrees, adding, “We’ve made more friends here in ten years than we had in our hometown, where we’d lived all our lives.”
Living Proof of the Power of Exercise
Friendship is important, of course. But the physical activity helps keep Mary and Larry strong. "I had a heart attack 35 years ago," recalls Larry. "With SilverSneakers, I can live a healthy lifestyle. I'm living proof that exercise works."
Some might even call it his superpower: For the past few years, Larry’s been dressing up as Batman for the yearly Mardi Gras parade and other community service events.
"Now I can walk two and a half miles in the parade, wearing a heavy costume - and sometimes my grandchildren join me as Batgirl and Robin," he says. "That's all due to SilverSneakers. It's really helped me strengthen my legs and build up my endurance."
For Mary, SilverSneakers is a great way to get out of the house and get moving. "If you stay home," she says, "there's only so much housework you can do. But going to the gym gets me using my muscles. I get a little sore sometimes, but I know it's better for me - move it or lose it!"
SilverSneakers has become a way of life for the St. Germains. "We're always the first to arrive at the gym and the last to leave," Larry explains. "When new members come, we try to put them at ease - we talk to them and help them get their equipment set up. We're just ordinary, common folk but the people in the group look to us as leaders."
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A Star Turn, Thanks to SilverSneakers
Given their dedication to their own workouts and the well-being of others, it’s no wonder that when it came time to choose a SilverSneakers Member of the Year, the people of St. Charles Parish broke with tradition and voted to name Mary and Larry Members of the Year instead.
“The whole community supported us,” recalls Larry. “Our boys put it up on social media and friends from California and Australia got involved and voted for us too.”
Now, they've become local celebrities: Wherever they go in town, people stop them and congratulate them. In the end, they won first place by a margin of more than 2,400 votes.
"We're definitely not used to this kind of publicity," says Mary. "We even had a small wedding." But now, 59 years after the high school sweethearts said "I do," they're gearing up for a big celebration - a luncheon at an elegant venue along the river, with 100 of their closest family members and friends.
"They're just as excited as we are," Mary adds. "We feel so honored and blessed."
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