Hi everyone, I’m developing a group fitness/circuit class for women aged 65-87. I’ve trained this population before, including the 87 year old, who is partially blind. I don’t think she is suitable to take the class because she really can’t see very well and would need a personal assistant; otherwise too much of my time will be drawn to her.
The class format is group warm-up, led by me, followed by partnering up for a circuit that consists of 8 stations/2 exercises each — done 2-3 times, ending with a group cool down. There isn’t enough equipment (barbells, etc) in this apartment gym to do it all as a group at the same time. Even when everyone can see, it still gets a bit chaotic as people figure out what exercise they’re doing and moving in the right direction.
Any words of wisdom on how to tell her I don’t think she’ll be able to do the class? Or, how would you handle it? Thanks.
Back in the late 80s I was teaching cardio at a gym that had a really successful group fit. program. I used to sub occasionally this other person’s class, and was surprised to see there was a woman at the side who was not doing any of the traveling movements. It became clear that she was blind. What was quite wonderful was how the class built a strong community, partly because the one or two people near her would take it on themselves to give her a word or a tap, or hand her a weight, or whatever she needed. And it was a fabulous opportunity for me as a relatively new teacher…. I learned how what I said was heard, and to teach with words as well as with my own physical movements.
In the situation you describe you must, of course put safety first, and I agree with Harris that you want to make it simple and open …. say what you mean. I would also say to talk to her seperately and before you are all there for the class. It is good not to do it in front of everyone, and good not to give her time to look forward to doing it. It is also good if there are other opportunities you can offer her so she doesn’t feel excluded…. “I’ve thought about the design of this class and feel it is a bad match for you, as there would be safety issues (or whatever), but here are two other programs I am running which would provide a better benefit, without the safety concerns”
Remember you do not want to make her feel old and disabled. She already knows that. Focus on what she can do as much as on the things that do not work well for her.
Also take into account the feelings of the others in the group…. would they react to your not wanting her in the class? I’ve taught a number of senior classes and I find the group cohesiveness is remarkable.
it may well be that she cannot participate in the class. At the age of 87, there are probably many things she cannot do. Since you know her limitations, though, could you not have her be part of the group but do her own thing in a corner. Could you not talk to her and offer her participation with modifications which you have discussed upfront with her? Who is to say that you will not run into this problem with another participant? You open the class to ages 65 to 87 which is a w-i-d-e spread.
Alternatively, you can discuss her need of a dedicated assistant during the class.
It would be good if she could come to the decision not to participate on her own rather being told so.
Have you asked her to bring a caregiver/assistant to class? I have worked with many clients with visual issues and I work with a group of people living with Parkinson’s disease. One of the rules of my classes is that if you need assistance to effectively participate, you must bring someone able to assist you. There are groups who provide such assistance, often for a low fee or free depending on insurance copays etc.
Some of the people are assisted by their spouse, who know them well and work well together.
I hope you can make it work, but don’t beat yourself up over it if it doesn’t work out. A few of the people that were not able to have assistance or chose not too, understood completely and signed up for private lessons.
If this is a close-knit group of exercisers, I wonder if her class will help look out for her. We have some groups of seniors at our club that are very good friends, have coffee together after class, dinner and theater outings. They’ve built community. Her inclusion might be more important to THEM than the specific class plan. Just a thought.
It’s hard when someone’s fitness declines to the point that they can’t participate any more, and there aren’t any easy answers. For my groups, the individuals have self-selected out of my group-ex classes over time into the classes more geared for seniors and I haven’t had to suggest to anyone that they not attend.
I don’t notice if you teach for a gym, if you own a studio, or if you’re an independent contractor. If you teach for a gym, you might want to discuss with your management team before talking to your member. That way, they’ll be heads-up on the issue, they might have some ideas, and there won’t be any gaps in understanding.