Renew Active keeps seniors moving through popular pickleball club

Pickleball club offers fitness, connection

On any Tuesday morning in the community of Tubac, Arizona, you can hear the squeaking of tennis shoes and the back-and-forth knock of pickleballs hitting paddles, where four courts near the community center are a flurry of activity.

Tubac is a small community known for the arts — and its very active pickleball club. In a town of about 1,200 people, the Tubac Pickleball Club has about 110 members.

Pickleball combines the skills of tennis, ping pong and badminton and is played on a badminton-sized court with a tennis-like net. Over the last two years, it’s become the fastest-growing sport. Many older adults in Tubac are fans of pickleball because of its low barrier to entry, the camaraderie and the level of physical fitness — brisk but not grueling — it provides.

“The pickleball community in itself has been phenomenal,” said Michele Titcomb, a member of the Tubac Pickleball Club and a Medicare Advantage member with UnitedHealthcare. “They’re just there. They’re wonderful people.”

For UnitedHealthcare members, like Michele, who have Renew Active® as part of their Medicare benefit, it comes with Element3™ Health, which connects members to activity clubs, either in-person or virtually. Element3 covers the cost of membership for these clubs, whether it’s an existing registration or new membership. These clubs can range from pottery to quilting or from line dancing to, yes, pickleball.

“The mission of Element3 Health is to get seniors active and engaged physically, socially and mentally,” said David Norris, CEO of Element3 Health. “Activity clubs are distinct from going to the gym or even doing a fitness class. Our clubs deliver a great health outcome to their members, encouraging them to be physically active, and, by joining in a community, giving them a renewed sense of purpose and joy. Connecting these clubs to their health plan is a new concept.”

UnitedHealthcare reimburses clubs every time one of their eligible members engages in a club activity. These funds can then be invested back into the club — for example, in the case of the Tubac Pickleball Club, dues reimbursed by Element3 Health help cover the costs to renovate the four courts and help with maintenance.

“It's a great benefit for the members because they're not paying their dues out of their pocket anymore. And it gives them an excuse to come down here even more to play,” said Lucie Desmond, president of the Tubac Pickleball Club.

Beyond covering membership costs, Renew Active and Element3 Health help create connections for Medicare members to promote wellness and improve well-being. By making it easier for older adults to do activities that interest them, and form social bonds in the meantime, Element3 Health helps combat issues of loneliness and social isolation, which can compound and create adverse health effects. With Renew Active, members can access fitness programs for both body and mind, including a gym membership, online brain health programs and more — at no additional cost.

For Lucie, the whole health benefits of being part of an active pickleball club is what keeps her thriving through retirement.

“Honestly we all have bad days and a lot of times, I would come down here not feeling the greatest, maybe even a little depressed,” Lucie said. “Immediately you are enveloped with friendships and then when you get out and you get those endorphins going, it's just a win-win.”

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

Participation in the Renew Active® program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Renew Active includes standard fitness membership and other offerings. Fitness membership equipment, classes, personalized fitness plans, caregiver access and events may vary by location. Certain services, discounts, classes events, and online fitness offerings are provided by affiliates of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or other third parties not affiliated with UnitedHealthcare. Participation in these third-party services are subject to your acceptance of their respective terms and policies. UnitedHealthcare is not responsible for the services or information provided by third parties. The information provided through these services is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a doctor. The Renew Active program varies by plan/area. Access to gym and fitness location network may vary by location and plan.

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