Targeting the Golden Ager

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My son recently learned how to ride a bicycle, and the last time I took him to visit my parents, he insisted on bringing his new, bright green set of wheels along. My nearly seventy-year-old father, mostly sedentary and not in the best of health, surprised me by pulling his old bike out of the shed, dusting it off, and declaring that he was going to join in on a ride. He was slow and creaky at first, and he fell off once — with nothing more than hurt pride, thankfully — but he went a full four miles with my son (who streaked along with abandon, delighting in his ability to outpace Grandpa).

We don’t see my parents as often as I’d like, and I don’t want my father waiting around for our quarterly visits to get his exercise. When I told him he should join a gym, he laughed, saying he’d be embarrassed to show his old self among all those young, fit bodies. When I told him there are gyms especially for the elderly, and ones with programs geared just toward that group, he was surprised. He’d had no idea.

What can such gyms do to be sure they’re reaching golden agers like my dad? While advertising in obvious places — AARP magazine, for example — is probably a good idea if you’re a national establishment with branches around the country, many older folks, my dad included, have a more local focus. They want to go someplace right in town, and they like venues that seek their business in personal ways. One effective move might be to visit a senior center near your gym or health club and put up simple flyers — or, better yet, send one of your trainers who is knowledgeable about the older demographic. Have him or her give a presentation, demonstrate easy exercises for seniors, and maybe do one-on-one consultations. And make sure business cards get handed out, perhaps along with membership or class coupons.

Another option might be to sponsor a Walk for Senior Health in your area, something a local paper might write about. You’d not only drum up some business, you’d also raise awareness about the need for seniors to pay attention to their health. I know my dad could use all the reminders he can get.

In general, keep in mind the kinds of places people more advanced in years might go: in addition to senior centers, libraries, clubs like the Elks or Rotary, town halls, and doctors’ offices are all good options. Then head to those places and start talking about your programs that might interest them. If you remind them that working out regularly will help them keep up with their grandchildren, they’re likely to sign on with gusto.

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