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katie barnes • assistant editor • health club management

everyone’s talking about . . .

the grey market


What opportunities are there for operators who want to target older adults, and what’s the key to tapping into this market? We ask the experts

he world’s population is growing older. Fact. This trend is most notable in developed countries, where

the overall median age rose from 29.0 in 1950 to 37.3 in 2000. This is expected to increase to 45.5 by 2050. In addition, the age of retirement is predicted to sail above today’s benchmark of 65 in years to come. We all expect to live and work for

longer. However, as we increase in age, our health declines: we become less fl exible and fi nd it harder to perform general day-to-day activities, our bones don’t heal as well, our cognitive abilities decline and we’re at greater risk from

conditions such heart disease and cancer. This is something that health club operators can help with, however, as keeping physically active and fi t can help ward off these ailments and diseases. What’s more, this ageing population

has money to spend. Analysing fi gures published in the recent Family Spending report from the Offi ce of National Statistics, charities Age Concern and Help the Aged calculated that the spending of over-65s reached an estimated £97bn in the UK in 2008 – around 15 per cent of the overall household expenditure. The charities suggest that this is fi gure is now likely to have passed the £100bn milestone.

Broadening the age band to those

aged 50 and above, they calculate that the fi gure soared to £276bn in 2008, making up around 44 per cent of the total family spending in the UK. The market, money and opportunity

is there. So how can health club operators tap into this potentially highly lucrative market? Is there a particularly effective marketing method? What kind of facilities and fi tness programmes might appeal specifi cally to older adults? Are there any examples of best practice we can learn from? Is there anything we’re currently doing wrong? We ask the experts for their advice.


john searle

chief medical officer • the fitness industry association

successfully counteracted by exercise. But the question is, how much exercise should older people do? The answer is ‘quite a lot’ – the recommended levels are 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise a week. This can be


done in short sessions, but these should always be longer than 10 minutes each. Also necessary are two strength training sessions a week which use all the major muscle groups. Regular core strength and stability training is also essential, as are balance and co-ordination exercises. There are more than nine million people in the UK over

the age of 65 and this number is rising steadily, so there’s a big market out there. My own personal training practice has a high proportion of older clients. They’re fun to work with, very committed and appreciate the benefits which exercise brings them. However, are our clubs always older person friendly? No. In fact they can be quite intimidating and this needs to be addressed. It would also be an enormous help if we could attract older people into the industry to qualify as fitness instructors.

hile the ageing process cannot be reversed, it can be very

colin milner

ceo • international council on active aging

there are so few operators truly catering to older adults that it’s an open market. ‘Older’ isn’t a matter of age: it’s a


matter of functional ability and attitude. Too often, operators have a few seniors’ classes and give senior discounts at odd times in the middle of the day.

Typically, locations that benefit from a large, active membership

of older adults have intentionally (or accidentally) hired a staff member who’s passionate about the market. That person becomes educated on facility design and age-friendly equipment, convinces the owner to make changes, hires well and develops a diverse programme that caters for a variety of functional abilities. Successful programmes have a very strong social component

and are intellectually challenging. Sometimes that’s dedicated brain fitness activities, and often it’s an instructor who’s adept at integrating stimulating mental activities into a workout. It’s moving from exercise-only to a wellness model that looks at broader areas of life. An example is Nifty After Fifty, a club that’s blended together rehab and fitness, added in brain fitness and worked within that wellness model (see HCM March 08, p35).

24 Read Health Club Management online april 2010 © cybertrek 2010

lder adults are a huge market, but the real opportunity is that














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