Meet a population considered more affluent and healthier than any other generation before them. Meet the Baby Boomers. Sixty-five million of them are expected to be 55 years old to 70 years old by the year 2015. The health and wellness needs of this aging group go way beyond aquatics workouts and chair aerobics classes. This group does not see themselves as getting old like their parents. They are a diverse population that varies in age, abilities and experience. Most of them are interested in preventive care and are taking a proactive step by attending your facility. You must be creative in the programming you offer for them and how you launch that programming and market it to this group. Most of all, you must be proactive in managing your programming for this growing population.
Here are some suggestions about how to attract in this large and aging market:
Launch Boomer programming with a health fair. Reach out to Baby Boomers by holding a health and wellness fair to which you invite medical professionals and community leaders. At the fair, gather intelligence on this audience by asking for their input in a survey. Ask them about formatting, the scheduling of classes and the importance of programming that targets them. Plan a Boomer educational area, supplying information on medical as well as exercise issues for the population. Hand out packets or goodie bags that include information on these topics. Continue to focus on health and wellness by scheduling monthly educational seminars or lunch-and-learns, which are a great way to invite guests to the facility that have similar interests to your growing Boomer population.
Hire leaders rather than teachers. Once you have peaked interest and scheduled programming, you need to hire a true leader to coach the group. The leader must take charge of attendance, recognizing absences, illnesses and excuses. The leader must be in tune with the entire group’s needs daily, planning programming that is focused on an experience rather than a calorie burn. The leader must be willing to pull all students into the game plan and may be asked to socialize with students before and after the scheduled class time. The leader truly manages the programming rather than just teaching a class format.
Schedule workout times that accommodate the population’s needs. Schedule your programming options mid-day and into the afternoon. The semi-retired age group has little need to get kids to a bus or to head out into rush hour traffic. The most popular times for classes and seminars are before lunch. Eating as a group is often this group’s cool down portion of the workout.
Plan interactive workouts and encourage the sense of belonging. Formats that include interaction and group dynamics will encourage a sense of belonging and play. Many instructors, coaches and trainers will ask the group to line up in a specific formation, then have participants intertwine, snake through, pass by and even circle one another rather than have students just face the instructor or front of the room. Some of the most popular moves include making a conga line and doing country line dance steps.
Plan sport-specific programs from their childhood. People in this generation typically played more than one sport in their youth. Outdoor play, games and competitions while at the gym remind aging Boomers of the fun they miss. Coaches can use themed music and plan easy-to-follow swings, kicks, dribbles and such throughout the workout. Plan field trips to a ballgame or bowling alley. You also can form teams and put together seasonal challenges in which teams play for points and prizes.
Design a system of member follow-up. Follow-up is made easier with today’s technology, and Boomers are savvy about emailing, blogging and texting. Unlike their parents, today’s 60-year-old is able to use all of today’s networking resources, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Constant Contact. Create a newsletter and blog site and then have a student head up the networking group within your club walls. Host Boomer Appreciation Days and award those who have perfect attendance in classes or at seminars. Follow up with bulletin boards that show photos of new grandkids, travel adventures and retirement plans. Having a culture of socialization will be the key to your programming’s success.
Purchase props rather than equipment. When budgeting and launching your Boomer programming, purchase some props instead of exercise equipment. Although light weights and tubing will be standard in studios, think outside the box and add balloons, small soft balls, hats, musical instruments and interactive games, like Twister, to your arsenal.
Help Boomers feel safe, stable and social. The heart of your programming must include safe and effective exercise formatting. The fear of falling and the fear of not doing something correctly are two of the main reasons the aging population stays away from your fitness facilities. Overcome these fears by training professionals to put the student first and foremost and to plan the workouts to include regressions as well as progressions. Keeping the movements easy to follow and recognizable will assist in decreasing the fears associated with the group classes. Making sure everyone fits in, takes a part and is noticed will create the culture of fun you seek.
Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Fitness Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.