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Active Aging: Your Club’s Future

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active aging

Consider these two factors: increasingly, more of us will hope to enjoy a longer life with more of those years spent in good health. Any health club, gym or studio that wants to stay relevant and innovative must be prepared to meet the needs of an ever-increasing number of older adults, many of whom will join, or consider joining, a fitness facility for the first time.

According to Ray Algar’s Health Club Industry Active Aging Report, not only is life expectancy increasing from advances in healthcare and rising living standards, but the pace at which the population is reaching 65 and over is quickening. One could argue that someone age 60 today is middle-aged, though 100 years ago, a 60-year-old would be considered quite old. Or perhaps, another way to say it is, “60 is the new 40.”

Aging Baby Boomers are the fastest growing health club member group and the wealthiest population group. The 2018 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report shows gym memberships increased by 63 percent from 2006 to 2016 for those aged 55 and older. In 2020, the number of people in the world over age 60 will pass 1 billion. This equates to one in every seven people.

Notwithstanding the attractiveness of capturing the millennial market, any forward-thinking club owner or operator should offer small group training and Group X classes designed for the active aging market. Focused fitness assessments, programming and equipment, as well as a trained staff to specifically work with seniors, are necessary to serve these members.

Five Tips in Designing an Active Aging Program

  • Employ age-appropriate functional fitness tests that measure strength, aerobic endurance, flexibility and agility to establish baselines.
  • Provide educational opportunities such as workshops and seminars, and design appropriate exercise programming that cater to your senior members.
  • Add fitness tracking technology and heart rate training to small group training and Group X classes. Particularly effective for the senior market, wearable technology helps them to easily see heart rate, training zones and caloric expenditure, improving their fitness while increasing their engagement. Plus, these tools enhance a trainer’s ability to lead a group and provide specific coaching opportunities for each person, helping them maintain an appropriate intensity for their age and fitness level.
  • Create appealing group training options. Small group training can be an energizing and motivating experience for exercisers at all age groups and fitness levels. Active agers, in particular, benefit from the social engagement and support.
  • Schedule classes at times during the week that are the most suitable for the older demographic. These hours often correspond to normally less frequented times at a club.

The fitness marketplace has already begun to carve out an active aging niche (think Silver Sneakers). Developing a program within your club, gym or studio will take a mix of investment, creativity and support from professionally qualified staff. Yet with near-term growth prospects, the effort will help to diversify membership, broaden community outreach and provide a return on the investment.

Diane Lydon is the director of international sales and John Saville is director of business development, senior market for Heart Zones, Inc. For more information, visit heartzones.com, email diane.lydon@heartones.com or call 916-318-6834.

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