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Tuesday
Mar282017

3 Keys to Successful Health Club Programming for Older Adults

Exercise is good for older adults—and older adults are good for your health club.

The global population is getting older—11.7% of the Earth’s population is over age 60, and this share is expected to grow to 21% by 2050. Fortunately for health clubs, older adults are more active than ever before, and the medical and public health communities are increasingly noting the mental and physical health benefits of remaining active into older age.

Older adults are one of the fastest growing membership groups—health club memberships climbed 72% among people older than 55 between 2005 and 2015. Many older adults are retired, so they have the time to join a health club. They can fill off-peak hours in the club, and tend to be some of the most loyal members.

Health Club Programming for All Ages

IHRSA’s Health Club Programming for All Ages e-book, the latest in our Best Practices E-books series, details the successful older adult initiatives at four leading clubs: 

  • Timberhill Athletic Club in Corvallis, OR
  • Pelican Athletic Club in Mandeville, LA
  • Billings Athletic Club in Billings, MT
  • Mountain Life Fitness in Granby, CO  

3 Keys to Successful Programming for Older Adults 

When profiling the successful older adult programming at these clubs, three keys emerged:

1. Programming should be fun and address member needs. Several clubs noted the importance of making the programming fun and engaging. This keeps members interested and coming back, and only then can they see marked improvements in quality of life, balance, fitness, and other metrics.

In addition to fun, programming should also meet the needs of this population. This can vary from lower-impact, less challenging options like aquatic fitness, therapeutic or gentle yoga, tai chi, and low-impact dance classes to more challenging spinning and circuit classes, or sport specific training for tennis, cycling, or golf.

2. Know the demographic—and love it.

It is important that someone who is running programs for and working with older adults understands the unique perspectives, challenges, and goals of this demographic and enjoys working with them. It is also helpful if this person (or people) has additional training, such as education from the Arthritis Foundation, a specialty certification in senior fitness, or other aging-specific continuing education credits from certifying entities.

3. Age is just a number, and it doesn’t need a label.

While older adults are a unique population, they don’t like to be told so all the time. The clubs interviewed in this e-book mostly noted the importance of avoiding stereotypical “old” names like “golden” or “senior” in the program or class names, presentations, or event themes.

For example, Mountain Life Fitness calls their program “Active at Any Age” to maximize inclusiveness, and Timberhill Athletic Club focuses presentations on topics of interest such as “food for brain health.” The clubs interviewed stressed that the best way to address this population is to meet them where they are, to address their needs, and avoid putting a label on it. 

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