Creating alternatives to the gym to help stay active and connected

Being away from family and friends has certainly put a toll on many of us this past year. Combined with sheltering in place orders and social distancing measures, it’s no wonder feelings of isolation and loneliness occur all too often in older adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one-fourth of Americans 65 and older are considered socially isolated.

In order to help address this need for social interaction, with a sense of promoting a total sense of wellness for members, Renew Active® by UnitedHealthcare is collaborating with Element3 Health to give eligible UnitedHealthcare members access to fun, engaging group events and activities being held safely during the pandemic.

Element3 Health matches eligible members into its network of both in-person and virtual clubs to engage in things they are passionate about – increasing their social connections and activity levels along the way. Most in-person activities meet outdoors and follow masking and social distance guidelines, and the classes and events are provided to eligible members at no additional cost.

Creative activities in particular are a compelling complement to a gym membership, as studies have found that visual arts may have tremendous health benefits. One example is an Element3 Health class led by Club Leader Jennifer Funnell for those interested in photography, painting or drawing.

“My role is sort of like a facilitator,” she said. “I’m leading the club, but there’s also an educational component, where I really do step into the role of a teacher, and I’m teaching them new skills and techniques. And of course, there’s a social component, too.”

Other Element3 Health classes and events include sewing, walking, pickleball, arts and crafts (e.g., origami, journaling) and even a dance club. Each class is intimate enough to enable members to form relationships and feel a sense of belonging. 

Jennifer compares club meetings to an open house where people eventually overcome any shyness they have because the gift of expressing oneself creatively is so enticing.

“I like to make everyone feel welcome, and they get a sense of community,” Jennifer said. “People have a need to be seen – feel that they have a voice. It’s great watching people gain confidence and become more comfortable. The cool thing about working with older adults is that when they decide they want to do something, they’re willing to put in the time, and they’re much more receptive to feedback. It energizes me to work with them.”

To learn more about UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans that offer Renew Active and access to Element3 Health’s classes and events, visit

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom