It's January, and your club is probably experiencing the biggest influx of new members in any month of the year. That's exciting, but we all know that now is the time to prepare how you will keep those members coming back into February.

The goal of programming is retention, and the goal for January is to get your members quickly involved in a program that is doable, enjoyable and social. The biggest commitment to exercise will come from interaction with other members. A social experience makes your new members eager to return.

The demographic trend has definitely shifted to members who are 50 years old and older. These members have become much more health conscious than in the past, and they know they need our direction and expertise to help them get started on a fitness regimen.

You must remember, however, that you see more beginners in the older spectrum of the population than in the younger population. The older crowd is still intimidated and misinformed about fitness, health clubs and exercise programs. Complex equipment, multipurpose environments and programs that sound challenging will turn them away as fast as they come in.

Fortunately, more clubs are offering programs that speak to the less experienced senior member — and these programs are drawing them in. Clubs are getting help from some equipment manufacturers that are offering lines of circuit-training equipment that is easier to use and smaller than equipment from the past. The equipment also is designed to move groups of people through exercise routines that are varied, fun and effective in 30 minutes.

Clubs are now speaking to the senior market — the inexperienced, inactive, intimidated new member. Smaller exercise props and equipment are being used to keep people interested, challenged and performing effectively. Stability balls, resistance tubing bands and balance equipment not only provide good exercise practices but also create a bit of laughter among participants while they learn to adapt to the moves.

More group exercise classes are geared specifically for seniors, particularly those who are in the Baby Boomer generation. Up until just recently, the vast majority of classes found on any group exercise schedule included names like Power Step, Power Sculpting, Butts and Guts, and Cardio Challenge. Now, I'm seeing classes titled Fun and Fitness for the Fifty Five Plus; Gentle Aerobics; Get Fit, Get Firm, Have Fun; Yoga on a Chair in Thirty; and Line Dancing for Beginners.

Now, branded group exercise programs have evolved to include specialized classes for the older adult. Group Active offers a variety of cardio, strength, flexibility and balance training using music geared specifically for Baby Boomers. Bodyvive is a low-impact group fitness workout that has special balls, tubes, and optional hand weights to keep the exercises interesting and energetic. The Silver Sneakers program is increasing in popularity, too.

Best of all, though, is the new trend in hiring and training the best instructors available who know how to encourage camaraderie and laughter while teaching a productive, active class. Some clubs even tout that their instructors are educated in gerontology. Our focus on seniors always will attract empathetic, energetic, educated teachers who are proficient in the human-touch factor as well as the physiological factor. They, above all, will make the difference.

Clubs and members are more successful when members keep returning. That's why the trend to market to senior members is important. It will not only retain those members but also increase your bottom line.

Sandy Coffman is president of Programming For Profit in Bradenton, FL, and author of “Successful Programs for Fitness and Health Clubs: 101 Profitable Ideas.” She can be reached at 941-756-6921 or at SLCoffman@aol.com.