Older Health Club Members May Have Greater Spending Power, Longer Club Tenure

With all the buzz about the future impact on business by Millennials, some fitness facility operators have overlooked older generations who have greater spending power and longer average club tenure than younger generations.

With all the buzz about the future impact on business by Millennials, some fitness facility operators have overlooked older generations who have greater spending power and longer average club tenure than younger generations.

According to 2010 Census figures, about 96 million Americans are 50 years old and older, and by 2030, 30 percent of Americans will be over 65. People are living longer, and with continued advancements in medical technologies, longevity will only increase. Consider these tips to meet the needs of an aging population:

Market to lifestyle, not age. These days, age is relative and is not an accurate predictor of life stage or health. Today, life lacks the linear, conventional steps of past decades. Career changes, multiple marriages and postponed retirements are now commonplace. Thirty-seven percent of Baby Boomers have children under 18 in the home, one-third of them are single, and adults ages 64 to 84 make up eight percent of the nation's workforce. How can you adjust your operations and programming to better meet these needs?

Ditch the term senior. Older adults generally identify the threshold of old age as someone at least 10 years older than them. Variances in lifestyle preclude us from effectively drawing conclusions about someone's health status or needs based on age. You do your club a disservice if you parcel all adults over a certain age into one generic category.

Rather than marketing classes for seniors, market them based on outcomes or characteristics. For example, market a low-impact class as joint-friendly to draw in older participants as well as people of all ages recovering from an injury or with a chronic illness. Focus on the purpose of the program rather than the age of participants.

People don't want drills; they want holes. If you understand what your prospects ultimately want from a gym membership, you will be able to better meet their needs. Recent research by the National Marketing Institute shows that Baby Boomers ranked aspects of health, such as physical fitness, proper weight, stress, energy levels, illness prevention, healthy diet and sufficient exercise, as very important. By contrast, their personal satisfaction with these issues was much lower. This represents a huge opportunity for our industry.

More Tips

Carve out your club's spot on the health care continuum. Can your club safely and effectively offer programs and services for individuals with multiple health risks? Perhaps your club has the infrastructure and staff credentials to offer physical therapy services onsite. If not, focus on serving the healthy population and develop strong partnerships and referral streams with other health care providers.

Roll out the welcome mat. Help older adults picture themselves in your club by featuring more than young, hard bodies in your marketing materials. Ensure your club is aesthetically pleasing and inviting, and that your fitness floor culture supports those who need help. Evaluate your facility for mobility and access to ensure it has ample rails, grips and spaces between machines as well as clear, readable signage.

Consider going music-less. The music you broadcast sends a powerful message about who you think your audience is and the demographic you wish to attract. If members must bring their own personal devices or plug headphones into the club entertainment system, you make music an individual choice and don't alienate members by your music choices.

Establish a strong service model. Fill your front line with cheerful, hospitable individuals of various ages. In addition to fostering interactions between team members and members, create opportunities for members to get to know other members.

Ask for feedback. If you want more older members, solicit suggestions from your current older members about how to attract this group. Then, act on those findings.

In the end, attracting older adults to your club is not about a special program you may offer or an age-based discount. It is a way of doing business. Remember, today's Millennial is tomorrow's older adult.

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