Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveys fitness professionals to get their take on the top 20 fitness trends for the coming year. Since 2011, the categories “fitness programs for older adults” and “functional fitness” have ranked in the top 10 nearly every year.
What’s the significance of 2011? That’s the year Baby Boomers began reaching the age of 65.
Much has been written about the aging Boomer population and how they are redefining the experience of aging, especially when it comes to their desire to lead healthy, active lives and “age in place.”
What is aging in place and how does it translate to an opportunity for clubs? As defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “aging in place is the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably regardless of age, income or ability level.”
In a 2014 AARP survey, 71 percent of people ages 50 to 64 wanted to stay in their current home and community as they age. For those aged 65+, the number jumps to 87 percent.
One of the most important factors for older adults to spend their golden years aging in place is the ability to do routine activities of daily living (ADL). What influences that ability? A person’s functional fitness.
Deficits in strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility and balance — the components that comprise functional fitness — can lead to the loss of independence and mean the difference between aging in place and a move to assisted living.
And this is where the “golden opportunity” exists for clubs.
Health clubs that offer older adults the tools and training they need to restore, improve or maintain their functional fitness will attract a demographic that has the time and money to invest in a health club membership. By addressing this group’s needs, clubs will inspire member loyalty and improve retention rates.
How can health clubs accommodate the needs of older adults? By providing:
- Individualized or group programming based on industry standards (e.g., ACSM), which includes:
- Pre and post assessments, tracking and reporting.
- Qualified, certified fitness professionals* (specialists are a plus) with:
- Knowledge about the physiology of the aging body.
- Training in proper exercise progressions (e.g., for those members who’ve had knee or hip replacements, or shoulder surgery).
- The ability to create individualized programs specific to the client’s needs and set measurable goals.
- Appropriate exercise equipment.
- Low impact, total body exerciser — e.g., recumbent cross trainers.
- Balance and stability products: exercise bands and hand weights.
*Specialty certifications, e.g., ACSM Exercise is Medicine® Credential, ACE Senior Fitness.