VANCOUVER, B.C. — Since launching its age-friendly facility locator program on Jan. 1, the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) has already listed 300 clubs that meet its guidelines for age-friendly facilities, and the organization hopes to reach 1,000 clubs by the end of the year.

Facilities apply with the ICAA, a trade organization for the senior fitness and wellness industry, and based on the level of functionality for seniors, receive a designation. Those that are deemed age-friendly get a posting on the ICAA's Web site as a resource for seniors to find their ideal health club. Applying is free for ICAA members and costs $199 per year for non-members for administrative costs.

Colin Milner, CEO of the ICAA, said no other programs exist to help seniors locate friendly clubs, and the ICAA's relationship with the American Academy of Family Physicians, a national association of family doctors, lends extra credibility to the program. It's the first national relationship between a fitness association and a physicians' group to boost physical activity among adults ages 50 and older, he said.

Just last month, Lifestyle Family Fitness, the for-profit chain in Florida, was added to the list of age-friendly facilities.

“The designation was important to Lifestyle because we want to promote a family-friendly environment that supports all ages in their health and fitness goals, young and old,” Gina Bailey, marketing director of Lifestyle Family Fitness, said. “Plus, we know the benefits of keeping active as you age; the health, social and physical benefits are unlimited.”

In 2004, the club started Silver Sneakers, a senior-based active aging group fitness program. Lifestyle Fitness clubs also hold a semi-annual Active Aging Expo where seniors are encouraged to bring a friend to senior-related educational seminars and fitness classes.

Despite the fact that adults in the 50-plus category are joining health and wellness facilities faster than any other age group today, many facilities are not prepared or equipped to serve older members, said Milner.

To see how your club stacks up to the ICAA's guidelines, the organization released a checklist that facility owners and managers can use to evaluate their facilities and make them more age-friendly.

A complete checklist can be found at www.icaa.cc, but here are a few of the questions:

  1. Are the membership contracts and marketing materials available in large print?
  2. Is the music acceptable and set at a reasonable level?
  3. Do the facility's treadmills start slowly at 0.5 mph?
  4. Does the facility's strength-building equipment have a low starting resistance of less than five pounds?
  5. Is the staff knowledgeable about the impact that medication can have on exercise?

For more information contact www.icaa.cc/facilitylocator.htm.