As health and fitness professionals, we are not immune to harboring senior stereotypes, but doing so may seriously hurt our businesses as the older population gravitates toward fitness studios, gyms and programs that understand them, accept them and help them see this stage of life as the best one yet. The truth is, “Boomers” (those born between 1946 and 1964) are shattering the traditional mold of what it means to be a “senior.” Instead of retiring at the age of 65, many are just now doing their best work and want to continue doing it for as long as possible. Instead of “slowing down” and “taking it easy,” they are traveling the world seeking out new adventures, and instead of withdrawing from society, they are more engaged than ever and finding new friends all around the world on social media platforms such as Facebook.
That’s hardly the picture of the frail and fragile senior citizen many people cling to. To give you a clearer idea of this population, here are some common stereotypes related to fitness for older adults that could be holding you back from working with this often-underserved and overlooked population.
1. They will get hurt (or worse).
This is probably one of the greatest fears that trainers have about working with older clients. They fear hurting them or (worse) killing them. Yes, older adults tend to have more chronic disease conditions. Yes, many older adults have been inactive for decades and have very low levels of fitness. Yes, there are some specific considerations that must be made when working with frail, significantly deconditioned or diseased individuals. But with some targeted education about how to train them properly, the chance of hurting them is actually pretty low. In fact, for most older adults, it is far more dangerous to remain inactive than it is to start a fitness program.
2. They are boring to train.
Older adults are extremely diverse in their physical abilities and needs, which means you need to train them individually (even in a small-group setting) and in a very robust manner. This means focusing on different areas of function including: musculoskeletal (e.g., strength and power); neuromuscular (e.g., coordination, reaction time); balance; cardiorespiratory; mobility (e.g., gait training, obstacle negotiation); and cognition (e.g., memory, executive function). Get out the kettlebells, suspension straps, battle ropes, dumbbells, ActivMotion Bars, ViPRs, sleds, plyo boxes, medicine balls and more. Don’t