Never too old for a challenge

Never too old for a challenge

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Never too old for a challenge

Our ageing population may be a largely untapped source of potential gym goers, says Phillipa Batts.


A hot topic these days is the impact of an ageing population. You could be forgiven for believing that this group will place a significant burden on society. Many older people may find themselves at a time in their lives when they experience a loss of purpose and identity. They have had defined roles through their working lives and this sense of identity can be lost upon retirement. Their own children are leading busy lives with less time available to spend with ageing parents and their spouses and friends are “passing on”. Growing older can be challenging. Some are limited by health concerns and declining functional capacity with increasing frailty and loss of independence, leaving many isolated and lonely and viewing their remaining years with little to look forward to and the sense that they have little to offer.

On the other hand, for the “Baby Boomers” just now reaching their 60’s, the profile is somewhat different. This generation has been characterised as independent, goal oriented and motivated.1 These characteristics carry over into later years. While boomers may not be in paid employment (although many are), they are actively contributing to society through volunteerism and caring for grandchildren (as are many of their elders). As a group these people are more highly educated, more financially stable and place a higher value on health and wellness than their predecessors.


Within each group there is a wide variation of experience and expectation, especially where health goals are concerned. The dilemma for the fitness industry is how to target this burgeoning market with such diverse needs. Older adults who are fit and well and who have been active through most of their adult lives will be well catered for among the general population at most fitness centres. Nevertheless, the effects of ageing will inevitably catch up with us all to a greater or lesser extent. A large portion of this group may experience health issues that can significantly impact on their ability to exercise safely and enjoyably. Many fitness professionals are not qualified to deal with these health concerns.

Additionally, many older adults have never been in a gym environment or may equate exercising with unpleasant experiences at the hands of an over-zealous school gym teacher. The health messages around the benefits of exercise may be well understood, but anxiety about the gym environment is a barrier.

Another significant barrier for older people is cost. Most fitness centres offer discounted rates for senior citizens and Green Prescription referrals, but the cost is still beyond the reach of a large number of retired folk who do not have the luxury of
discretionary spending.


For the full article, purchase Fitness PRO Magazine issue 2 or subscribe online today.

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