CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
In my exercise center, I am seeing more and more older people working out, which is great, and wish my parents were active like those I see. I am about to turn 50, and I wonder what kinds of programs there will be when I'm their age. I would love to think I'll be as active when I am 70 or 80. Are there specific things I should be doing to give me a head start on this? -- Sandy
The number of older adults interested in becoming active is rapidly multiplying. When you consider how Baby Boomers are feeding directly into this market, it's easy to understand why these silver-haired health seekers give the fitness industry plenty of reason to study the mature market.
Fitness -- coming of age
The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association says older adults make up about 23 percent of all fitness memberships. The Medical Fitness Association reports they account for 43 percent of all hospital wellness center memberships. This is obviously a demographic that deserves attention, and may explain why the American Association of Retired People and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently studied health behavior in the older adult, as it relates to physical activity.
Marketing to the mature
The studies sought to answer two key questions: What motivates older adults to be active; and what barriers in their lives keep them from being physically active. The groups believe this information is extremely valuable and could help guide the fitness industry toward appropriate programming and messages that could entice the hearts and minds of older adults. After all, this is not a one-size-fits-all demographic.
The senior market represents a wide range of experiences. Millions of stiff joints and mended hearts are making their very first appearance in a fitness arena with exercise veterans who have been active all their life. For seniors to exercise successfully, the experts must appreciate and be sensitive to the demands and special needs of each individual. That is why these types of findings will influence how physical activity, and all it encompasses -- equipment, programming, training modalities -- is promoted to older adults.
Age vs. lifestyle