Overland Park, Ks — A recent U.S. Census Bureau report finds that 506 million people worldwide are age 65 or older. That number is expected to reach 1.3 billion by 2040. And more than 54 million Americans have a disability or activity limitations.
While several companies manufacture fitness equipment for people with disabilities and senior citizens, many health clubs have been slow to add it to their facilities. However, an aging Baby Boomer population may change all that.
“At this time, I see more accessible equipment in medically based fitness centers,” says Amy Rauworth, associate director for the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD). “However, as our society ages, the demands that the Baby Boomers place on the need for adapted equipment will most likely change this fact.”
NCPAD data found that by 2050, one in every four Americans will be over the age of 65, and that more than 50 percent of that age group will have mobility limitations. After age 74, more than 70 percent of older Americans are expected to have mobility limitations.
Duane Anderson, director of operations and sales for HUR Health & Fitness Equipment, says his company sells inclusive fitness equipment mostly to medical and rehabilitation facilities, rather than traditional health clubs. An increasing senior citizen population is keeping HUR sales steady through the recession.
“The economy may be on the decline, but Baby Boomers are on the incline, so we haven't seen as big of a decline as most people have because our products are mostly tailored to rehab,” Anderson says. “What's going to happen with Baby Boomers is that everyone's parents are aging, and they're having issues with balance. The answer is preventative measures, which are slowly starting to come to the forefront.”
HUR recently paired its BT4 Balance Platform with the existing BalanceGym for a system designed to reduce falls and balance problems among older adults and people with disabilities.
“I've done a lot of research, because our bread and butter is seniors, and for regular gyms, everyone is slowly starting to get into the groove for having equipment for the disabled,” he says.
Anderson notes that fitness facility owners can receive up to a $5,000 per year tax credit on wheelchair accessible equipment per the Americans with Disability Act.
Several other manufacturers, including Matrix, Cybex, Scifit and NuStep also produce fitness equipment for people with disabilities.
Matrix, manufacturer of the Krankcycle, is planning to release a commercial version of the arm cycle that is wheelchair accessible in September. Krankcycle creator Johnny G. collaborated with Johnson Health Tech on the project. The newly designed Krankcycles will replace existing beta versions currently in use, says Tiffany Hoeye, commercial marketing manager for Johnson Health Tech North America. An inclusive educational program also will be released with the new Krankcycle, she says.
Rauworth notes that fitness facility owners who do purchase equipment for people with disabilities or mobility limitations will be more likely to garner physician referrals for their clubs. She also says an inclusive marketing plan presents an opportunity to expand a club's membership into a growing, aging population base.