In an article in the December 23, 2002, issue of the Los Angeles Times, Martin Miller reported that tens of thousands of Americans over 50 participate in organized team sports. He also stated that, considering that almost 21 million baby boomers are expected to turn 50 over the next 5 years, the number of such leagues may grow considerably.
While I loved him dearly, I remember my grandfather as a very pessimistic man. He would regularly tell me that getting old inevitably led to the body breaking down, one thing failing after another, until you finally died. In his view, getting old was unchangeable.
Since the mid-1990s, the fitness industry has been readying itself for a rising tide of older adults. Fitness professionals have grown with this nich market, trying to anticipate its needs and learning on a daily basis which direction to take. While we don't have all the answers to what the best modifications are, what the proper marketing plan is or whatever even whether to call these clients "seniors" or "older adults" (or both), we do know there is a need for specialized fitness services.
Explorers once searched for the fountain of youth, and old legends tell of magic potions that keep
people young. The ancient questions—Why do people grow old? How can we live longer?—still
fascinate people, including the
scientists who study aging (gerontologists). But their most important question is this: How can people stay healthy and independent as they grow older?
Aging is something that happens to all of us, whether we want it to or not. It brings with it life’s experiences and challenges. One such challenge, a decline in functional abilities, is due in large part to a decreased fitness level. Thanks to a mound of scientific evidence that would make believers of even the most skeptical among us, we now know that most of this decline can be prevented, reversed or delayed through exercise.
Working with a group of seniors offers many unique challenges and innumerable rewards. Designing a safe, appropriate and enjoyable program for this special population takes specific training, experience and planning that go beyond the physical aspects of the workout. Seniors face losses of many kinds and are often dealing with emotional issues that require your involvement. It is quite common, for example, to have a class member who is caring for an ailing spouse or grieving over the recent death of a loved one.
re you an older adult who exercises? Do you wonder if your diet is helping or hindering your workouts? Here are some nutrition tips from Jenna Bell-Wilson, MS, RD, LD, the media representative for the New Mexico Dietetic Association and a doctoral student in exercise physiology at the University of New Mexico.
At the 2002 World Fitness IDEA® convention, held this past summer in San Diego, the hot topic among attendees was teaching older adults. As all of this year’s IDEA award recipients emphasized in their acceptance remarks, not only is it cool and fun to teach the older-adult population, but it’s prudent as well. With the baby boomer wave cresting, teaching older adults really is an investment in your own future!
How well are you positioned to market your facility to the first wave of baby boomers, 17 million of whom will turn 50 over the next 4 years? A research brief published by FIND/SVP, a knowledge services company that provides research and consulting on such matters, says that many marketers will miss the target because they don’t fully understand the “new set of values and self-images that will affect how [boomers] act and spend.” The brief sorts out the demographic and financial data for this group, which FIND/SVP projects to become a $1 trillion market by 2005.