Health First Health Plans’ Star Series is Seniors’ Social Call, Encourages Brevardians to Embrace Activity
By Space Coast Daily // March 29, 2023
Currently, there are more than 34,000 Health First Health Plans Medicare members
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – For the majority of the 50 years they’ve been together, you could easily find Frantisek “Frank” Gasparik and his wife, Maida, breaking a sweat and testing their strength and endurance. They’ve participated in everything from 5K races to hikes, soccer, cycling – even mountain climbing.
“We were always extremely active,” said Frank Gasparik, a Melbourne resident and Slovakia native, who returned to Florida with his wife after spending a few decades in Colorado.
But several years ago, Maida’s health began to decline. She now resides in a private assisted living facility just a half mile from their home.
“I visit her every day,” he said. “She was my teacher. I didn’t speak a word of English when I came to America, and she taught me everything. She was my coach. She was always pushing me to keep going and beat my time and build up my strength. She is my miracle, my true love. Now it’s my time to care for her.”
Maida recently lost her ability to speak, he said, but can still communicate and show emotion, especially when her husband brings her absolute favorite treat – ice cream.
“She ate almost the entire thing today. Her whole face lit up.”
Since his wife moved to assisted living, he has been quite hesitant to get out and get moving.
“My wife and I would walk the neighborhood all the time – always holding hands. People would stop and say, ‘Oh, what a loving couple!’ Little did they know – we were just holding each other up!”
Earlier this year, Frank Gasparik received a flier in the mail announcing Health First Health Plans’ new events for their Medicare Advantage members. The Star Series is a free, monthly wellness meetup that brings people together for socializing and light exercise such as walking.
“This unique program was designed to better connect with our seniors and encourage them not only to be active but to also be social. We feel all of this is an important aspect of their wellness journey,” said Dana Kelley Ashley, Director of Health First Health Plans Marketing & Communications.
Currently, there are more than 34,000 Health First Health Plans Medicare members throughout Brevard and Indian River counties.
Since its launch in January, the events have featured a two-mile walk, a scavenger hunt at Brevard Zoo and an ice cream social. More events are planned in the coming months.
“There is zero cost to our Medicare members for these events,” said Ashley. “We want all of our members to be able to attend and benefit from the activities we offer.”
Health First has received extremely positive feedback from its members so far—almost 300 attending the recent event at Brevard Zoo on February 7.
“Not only are they reconnecting with the community, but we’ve even heard from members that getting out and walking has given them the boost they needed to start being active every day,” she said.
This was exactly the case for Frank Gasparik, who attended January’s two-mile walk at West Melbourne Community Park.
“I made the decision to go, and I loved every minute,” he said. “It felt so good to get out there, and I met so many wonderful people. It gave me the confidence to start exercising again. I have been walking every night around my neighborhood ever since.”
Every event in the series has an aspect of wellness associated with it, from walking and exercising to keeping the mind active with games and puzzles.
Gasparik, a retired computer and electrical engineer and inventor, said he is a huge supporter of Health First and its commitment to promoting wellness within the community. He and his wife have been Health First Health Plans members for the past 15 years.
“Once, I wrote a letter to your Health Plans President Matt [Gerrell] telling him how pleased I am with the organization,” said Frank. “And you know what? He called me – on the phone! I was so touched. I would be absolutely honored to one day shake his hand.”
Gasparik is looking forward to the next Stars Series event, and he’s not alone. Many Health Plans members have shared their enthusiasm for the series.
“I am counting down the days,” he said. “I have Health First to thank for giving me my life back.”
Visit HF.org/news to keep up on the latest at Health First.